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3 Simple Secrets: Employee Engagement Across the Generations

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

There’s lots of chatter in the workplace about engagement and the different generations. Millennial employees, in particular, often get a bad reputation when it comes to not fitting in or pushing against conventional workplace norms. Many Baby Boomer managers, meanwhile, are upset that younger employees entering the workforce aren’t like them.

Hasn’t this been happening since the start of time? Every generation seems to think that the following generation is radical in its approach—and not in a good way. When it comes to engagement, the good news is you don’t have to worry about generations in the workplace.

Here are three simple secrets that work every time.

Secret Number One: Treat Everyone As an Individual

External events and cultural norms affect people’s view of the world—but that doesn’t mean they affect their internal motivators. Those are formed by childhood experiences, personality, and happenings over time. Just like stereotypes about race, ethnicity, or gender, stereotypes about generations don't tell the whole story.

Whether you're in a leadership or talent development role, it's important know people one-on-one. Asking questions and listening so that you better understand peoples’ personal motivators is essential. One of my favorite questions to ask is “What makes you feel satisfied, energized, and productive at work?” When you ask this question, you'll see what makes people tick and what engages them.

Secret Number Two: Take Time to Make Meaningful Connections

Everyone wants to have meaningful connections at work. When I ask people “What makes you feel satisfied, energized and productive at work?” many folks share that it's the positive connections they have with co-workers and their managers.


Regardless of your role, you can influence these meaningful connections. When I worked in a learning and development role within a human resources department, it was exciting to connect with staff members and managers. I enjoyed understanding what motivates others and providing solutions to help meet their needs.

From stopping by someone's office on the way from mine to holding focus groups where we had dedicated listening time, making meaningful connections paid off for everyone. Every generation appreciates the connection and involvement.

Secret Number Three: Pay Attention

What are folks complaining about? What are they excited about? When do you have a bunch of callouts or people leaving the organization? What are people saying in exit and stay interviews?


When you look this data and pay attention to the nuances of different voices, you can gain great insight into how to help motivate across generations. Motivation comes from within, but external sources can easily block it.

Supporting others’ motivation and creating shared responsibility for engagement can be accomplished in your workshops, coaching, and consulting. Are you pushing folks to own their own happiness at work? When you pay attention and dial-in to what's happening, you'll have so much information to help with creating a more positive workplace culture.

Please join me for a free webcast during which we’ll explore data from a recent survey of more than 600 professionals related to motivation across the generations. Click here for more information.

About the Author

Vicki Hess, RN, guides healthcare professionals who want to create an environment where employees are engaged, customers are satisfied, and goals are achieved. Her views on patient and employee engagement are evidence‐based, relatable, and real world. Organizations that implement Vicki's ideas experience increased productivity, safety, quality, retention, patient satisfaction, creativity, and more.

As a nurse, keynote speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of four books; Vicki's goal is to inspire healthcare leaders and staff to take action by sharing high impact, easy to implement ideas that transform the way people work. As a cancer survivor and victim of a surgical mistake she brings the voice of the patient into her programs. Download free tools and resources at

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An employee development plan requires effort from all the parties involved to have the most impact on the organisation. Development is a team effort and you can read about it on our blog:
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While the author's three suggestions are fine, economically engaging employees, treating them like trusted partners, driving and participating in the profitable growth of the company is shown by industry leaders to be more effective. These articles provide more background:
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