Millennial Employees? They're Just the Tip of the Iceberg

employee productivity
Millennial employees get all of today's press. But here's a fun fact - they're not the only generation you need to worry about. Sure, they're the largest (a full third of the people you employ), but that means there's another two-thirds of working people who also have key roles to play. And each brings (and needs) something different.

What's the breakdown?

Gen Z

Still in school or fresh out of it, the youngest segment of the workforce brings the fearless idealism that make them (and so us) rethink - and brazenly challenge - the current order. You want a dose of that brashness. After all, there's a reason the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world upended the status quo at such tender ages: they didn't yet think they couldn't. As for technology: Gen Z has never known a world without social media, and they haven't yet met a device they couldn't conquer.

HOW TO SUPPORT THEM: The ink is barely dry on their diplomas, yet college loans already loom large. Help to pay them back will be a big carrot for recruitment. They'll also likely perk up for some of the fun extras (manicures, food trucks) they can brag about to their friends.


No longer your workforce's Rugrats, the eldest members of the Millennial crew are not only long past childhood (the oldest is pushing 40!)...they're also having children themselves; and they're holding off parenthood until they're established in valuable roles. The good news is their tech-from-the-womb ingenuity is now tempered with pragmatism that can help put those great ideas into practice. And they've got another great skill: they're notoriously determined to ace the whole work/life balance thing and will be acting as role models to show Gen Z how it's done.

HOW TO SUPPORT THEM: The new-parents-on-the-block value family-friendly over salary, and will prove it by leaving jobs for less money...and more support. That means child care will become their price of entry, and it will remain so for Gen Z as they get the work/life balance template from Millennial employees. The Millennial learning generation remains eager to bring you new skills...just make sure your education program includes financial support to offset the educational debt they're already carrying, as well as the kind of short learning bursts that appeal to young parents in the frenzied infant- and toddler-raising years

Gen X

Long the Jan Brady to Millennials' Marcia, Gen X is moving into workforce veteran status and taking up residence in the corner office. Now that their children are growing past infancy into their more-independent school age, these experienced workers have the bandwidth to flex their muscles in critical leadership roles. And they're ready to use the industry knowledge they've been amassing to show why retaining them has been a good idea all along.

HOW TO SUPPORT THEM: Financial security looms large, especially with school-age children putting worries about college tuition - and how to afford it - front and center. Saving strategies will take a huge distraction out of their way. They're also focused on their own careers, and have more time and energy now to use tuition programs to advance their degrees.


Older employees are your renewed resource. They've got ace multitasking and crisis-management skills honed from 18 years of parenting; but with grown children and empty nests, they're now free to devote those skills exclusively to their jobs. They're also the keepers of your industry knowledge base; something you'll need them to pass on to up-and-coming Millennials and Gen X if you plan to avoid devastating skills gaps.

HOW TO SUPPORT THEM: Boomers have time on their hands, but they may not want to use all of it for work, and will value flex time and perhaps even a reduced schedule. With the newly available mental space, they'll likely stick around for skill-boosting education programs; but they'll gravitate to shorter programs versus a multi-year degree. And help with the sandwich -- not lunch (though they'd appreciate that), but the wrap of kids' college applications and aging parents' growing healthcare needs - will be much-appreciated benefits that will entice these important folks to stick around.

Greatest Generation

Retired? Not necessarily. Today's elders are increasingly working into their golden years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 20% of people are still on the job after age 65 (just check out this tough lady!). As important as their professional identities, these beloved grandparents are often the rocks standing behind younger employees who count on them for assistance with (and sometimes even guardians for) the grandkids. That makes them a valuable part of your family, even if they're not officially on the payroll.

HOW TO SUPPORT THEM: Back-up elder care, if not offered directly to them, then to their children (your Millennial, Gen X, and Boomer employees) is a must. Taking good care of these folks has benefits all the way down the line for your workforce. Plus, it's just the right thing to do.

Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
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