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Normandin Beaudry

Generational differences and their link to employee engagement


There, in black and white

NB Bulletin Vol. 10 N. 6, May 2007

Each year, Normandin Beaudry’s strategic partner, Hewitt Associates, conducts the Best Employers in Canada study. Hundreds of organizations participate in this national study. On the strength of this partnership, Normandin Beaudry is fortunate to be able to share with its clients the results from research carried out by Hewitt in Canada and throughout the world.

Since 8 years now, this study not only determines the list of the 50 Best Employers in Canada, but also presents an opportunity to gather very valuable data on organizations, their socio-demographic evolution, their work environment and their human resources policies and practices.

It is a well known fact that Canada’s population is aging. Consequently, the workforce is aging. What impact does this new reality have on employee engagement? Do the different generations have similar needs or will employers need to tailor their offering to each generation?

Hewitt Associates recently examined this important question and analyzed the responses of more than 100 000 employees working in Canadian organizations.

Engagement and generation: very real differences

The results speak for themselves: generational differences are not just theoretical. The analysis of the results of the 2007 Best Employers study shows that engagement levels increase considerably with age.

To illustrate this point and facilitate understanding, it is important to keep in mind that, on average, 77% of employees from the 50 Best Employers are engaged (i.e. have an emotional and intellectual commitment to their employer), as compared to 55% of employees from other organizations that participated in the study but failed to make the list.

When we compare employee engagement index scores based on age, we are able to better understand the generational differences that exist in the working world.

Chart 1 shows that the engagement index score decreases gradually with age, reaching a threshold of 61% for employees belonging to Generation X and 63% for employees from Generation Y.

What is this data telling us? Were the human resources policies and programs created by baby boomers to meet the needs of baby boomers? Are the benefits and services offered to Generation X and Y employees tailored to their needs?


Chart 2 may explain in part the noticeable drop in employee engagement levels. Of course, there are factors other than generational differences that contribute to engagement rate variances. Priorities, values, family situations, etc., also differ from one age group to another. This data reveals us that, to engage their troops, organizations must be in tune with each group of employees that makes up their workforce, and must take into account the specific needs and values of each group.

Flexibility required

Universal human resources policies no longer get the job done. Going forward, policies must offer greater flexibility, allowing employees to choose the elements that meet their distinct needs and expectations.

How will this flexibility come to light? This is a difficult question to answer because no specific formula exists. Each organization has its own unique setting and workforce.

Based on the latest data on this topic, however, we can confirm that a number of organizations are tending toward greater flexibility in conditions and benefits offered to employees. This trend is evidenced by the introduction of flexible work schedules, leaves of absence without pay and the implementation of health promotion and career management policies, as well as several other initiatives customized for the workforce.

Responses from the more than 200 organizations surveyed by Hewitt Associates indicate that customized benefits programs will become increasingly more popular. Of the organizations surveyed, 38% offered these types of programs in 2006 and 64% intend to introduce customized benefits programs within the next three years.

Planning: your best ally

Benefits are not the only factors to consider when examining employee engagement. We need to look at the work environment from every angle, which means reviewing all of the organization’s human resources policies and practices.

Changing the work environment to boost employee engagement will take time. For a successful change, each organization will need to carefully plan each step. Effective planning will not only allow the organization to conduct a complete analysis of its workforce, but will also ensure that employees’ needs are properly identified, making it possible to offer a range of benefits and a work environment adapted to their reality.


Please feel free to contact us for additional information.

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