Boomers, and Xers, and Millennials - Oh My!

The generation gap is as old as time. Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials have many similarities, and many differences. As new generations join the workforce, companies have been challenged to look at benefits packages, like relocation, in order to manage all of these groups effectively.

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The generation gap is as old as time. Everyone remembers being a teen and weepily complaining to your parents, “But you just don’t underSTAND!” and stomping out of the room. Today, more than ever, this lack of understanding is spilling into the workplace between employees and managers. It shows up in staff meetings, in emails, and in multi-generational teams trying to work together on a project. It even shows up when a new recruit accepts a job.

As the Human Resource department, you and your staff are in charge of recruiting, assisting, and retaining employees. One of the best ways to do this is to understand the differences between the three generations who are currently working at your place of business and offer them the kinds of benefits they’re looking for.

But wait! Before you think this is just another post about recruiting Gen Xers or Millennials, think again. This is about how changes in the workplace (and in generations) have changed hiring and benefits packages. There are specific traits linked to the three generations in the workforce. These traits impact the way companies manage them.

The Three Generations

The first thing to understand are the ages of each generation that make up the bulk of the US workforce. Baby Boomers were born between 1945 and 1965, meaning they are anywhere from  53 to 73 years old. Generation Xers were born in the mid-1960s to the mid-80s. This generation is somewhere between the ages of 33 and 52. And the Millennials (also known as Generation Y) were born between 1985 and 2000. On the low end, they’ve recently graduated from high school, up to the age of about 32 years old.

Baby Boomer’s Motto: Live to Work

Obviously, Baby Boomers are the oldest group of your employees. And while many of them are looking toward retirement (if they haven’t retired already), they are also typically the most loyal and hardest working members of your staff. They can be counted on and have a positive work ethic. Boomers want to work for companies that have been in business for a long time, support their community, and are financially stable. They enjoy mentoring the newbies and contributing to the organization.

Employers who want to hire and retain Baby Boomers in their company need to show that they appreciate these seasoned employees’ knowledge, dedication, and contributions.

When Boomers Move

Because Baby Boomers live to work, they focus on their careers throughout their lives and are willing to do what is necessary to get ahead. They understand that to move “up”, they may have to move “out”. Transferring to another location for a promotion is just part of the job. Since 2007, there has been an uptick in the number of Baby Boomers who have recently moved – whether for their career or to be nearer family.

At this stage of their careers, which in many cases is an executive level position, Baby Boomers tend to enjoy the “finer things in life”. Expensive jewelry, fine art, collections, antiques, etc. are often part of their lifestyle. And when they move, they insist on bringing their lifestyle with them.

Offering Boomers a full service moving package as a benefit will reflect that their loyalty to the company is warranted. Many businesses provide housing purchase assistance programs for top executives - helping them find and purchase a home. Having the relocation service do all of the packing and moving and being able to travel back and forth between the old and new location, are just a couple of other perks they expect at their level. It reassures the Baby Boomer that they, and their precious household goods, will be well taken care of and that they are receiving a benefit in line with their stature in the company.

Generation X’s Motto: Work to Live

Although at first glance Generation X seems to be less loyal to employers than the Baby Boomers, like the Boomer generation, Xers also prefer to work for organizations that are financially stable. Gen Xers are also often part of the “sandwich generation” - meaning they take care of both their small children and elderly parents. Therefore, they need jobs which provide flexible work arrangements (e.g., flex time, telecommuting) and offer childcare and possibly eldercare benefits. They want to work for a company that promotes a balance between their home/social life and their career; a business that allows their employees to enjoy life while they’re still young.

Generation X is also entrepreneurial and focused on saving their neighborhood (more than the entire world). They are interested in recycling, a clean environment, and safety.

Employers who are interested in hiring and retaining Generation Xers need to offer flexibility and the opportunity to try new things. They enjoy moving from department to department, learning everything about their employer.

When Generation X Moves

Generation X grew up at a time when technology was emerging. They can still remember when they got their first cell phone or desktop computer. When Generation X moves, they often have fewer high value items, but more kid’s clothes, toys, and home goods. They are less worried about their furniture, but more concerned about whether their new home will be in a good neighborhood with an excellent school system.

Generation X employees are interested in moving benefits that offer assistance with spousal job searches (both spouses usually work), help with finding a new home, or temporary housing and/or storage services.

Millennials’ Motto: My Opinion Matters

Millennials are similar to their Baby Boomer parents in that they are very optimistic, seek work that is productive and meaningful and tend to value “experiences” more than “things”. They also prefer working for a company that supports information sharing through innovative technology. Companies that offer their employees the opportunities for continuing education, creating flexible schedules, and voicing their opinions on workplace matters are particularly appealing. Millennials want meaningful positions that will provide experience and prestige while allowing them to advance their careers, but typically don’t look for long tenures with their employers. They think of themselves as special and yet prefer to either work in groups or, like the Gen Xers, have a great deal of flexibility.

Studies often paint a disparaging picture of Millennials as less than loyal employees, unwilling to work hard and who won’t stay in a job more than a couple of years. However, Millennials don’t job hop any more than previous generations at the same age. Once they settle down and have children, Millennials’ tendency to switch jobs diminishes.

Employers who want to hire and retain Millennials need to remember that, due to a variety of economic challenges, they are new to the workforce. The key to improving the relations between a business and its Millennial employees is to treat them as different and separate people, not as a homogeneous group. Companies who create a better understanding of Millennials and their generational differences will improve their performance on the job.

When Millennials Move

Millennials are different from prior generations in several ways: they are living at home longer, are more likely to have college degrees with higher student loan debt, and are not quick to purchase a house or car.

States with the highest number of Millennials offer strong education systems (California, New York), high job growth (Texas, North Dakota), and attractive lifestyle options (Utah, Hawaii). If they don’t move back home after college, Millennials will most likely take that time to relocate for a career opportunity.

When moving, Millennials generally have a lot of electronic equipment and less expensive household goods. They will wait until they get to their new location before purchasing large pieces such as a couch or bed. But they also care how “green” the moving company is. Is their packaging made from recycled paper? Are the packing peanuts made of Styrofoam or biodegradable materials?

And as far as corporate moving benefits go – they are most interested in having a flexible package, to structure their move to fit their unique needs. Millennials often prefer to rent versus purchasing a home and will ride the bus or a bicycle instead of buying a car. Assisting your new hire in finding an apartment or suitable housing near the job will help them feel more comfortable in their position. Companies considering expansion or relocation projects would be smart to put housing costs high on their list to prioritize for Millennials.

How Often Do All Three Generations Change Jobs?

Many people believe that two situations determine how often employees switch jobs: When the economy is growing, more jobs are available, and workers will take a chance on applying for another position. But when the economy is shrinking, the opposite is true. Employees will stay at the job they have, unwilling to risk becoming unemployed. This is true for all three generations of workers and at every level of the job market.

Understanding Differences

As businesses develop moving and relocation programs and tie them to recruitment, compensation, or retention strategies, they should remember that a segmented approach with flexible options is likely to increase their employees’ level of satisfaction. Baby Boomers who are heading toward retirement and settling into their last job differ significantly from the other two generations. Generation X is trying to balance their home and work life and is in need of entirely different benefits, while Millennials who are still paying off student loans and living with their parents may find other benefits appealing.

At times, it may seem almost silly to worry about the differences between generations. But when you understand how each generation thinks and what is important to them, it makes managing and recruiting employees much easier. As an example of how each generation sees the world, consider this: When asked about the death of Kennedy, Baby Boomers will respond with something about a parade in Dallas and the grassy knoll; Generation X will talk about a small plane crash in the ocean near Martha’s Vineyard; and Millennials may say, “Kennedy who?”

Those answers reflect just how different we are - even within a few generations.

More information about corporate mobility and talent recruitment trends can be found here. Or, if you would like to discuss moving and relocation packages for your employees, click here.


Categories: Corporate