I’m always fascinated by discussions of the different age groups in the workplace and whether I fit the generational mold. But for employers facing a shortage of skilled workers, it’s actually serious business.

“Generational cohort is a key predictor of what employees want from a job, what employees want from their boss and what they will do if their organization or boss does not deliver,” professor Linda Duxbury said in her keynote presentation at the 34th Annual  ISCEBS Employee Benefits Symposium last month in Vancouver, British Columbia.

With fewer younger people available to take the high-skilled jobs baby boomers will vacate over the next 15 years, employers will find it increasingly important to hold on to workers from all generations. Employers also are looking to other countries to fill those vacancies.

[Related: Employee Benefits by Generation—Benefit Bits Video featuring Linda Duxbury]

That’s where benefits and how they are communicated can come into play, according to Marni Johnson, author of “Engaging a Multigenerational and Multicultural Workforce: One Style Does Not Suit All” in the September/October issue of Plans & Trusts. Johnson is president of Workplace Communication & Diversity Inc., a Toronto-based training and consulting company.

With so many different generations and cultures working side by side, Johnson suggests that organizations that learn to harness these differences will be the most successful and the most creative.

Duxbury and Johnson offer these insights on three of the generations in today’s workforce:

Baby Boomers

What they want: Job security, benefits, seniority and pensions. They also want high-visibility projects, promotions and support for work/life challenges.

Best communication methods: Printed information that’s organized in an easy-to-read fashion. Many still prefer face-to-face meetings.

Gen Xers

What they want: Work/life balance, flexibility to manage their priorities and professional development.

Best communication methods: Offer an array of benefits to choose from and explain the rationale behind the plan.


What they want: Challenging, interesting work, the chance to learn, flexibility and more vacation. They also want opportunities for social activities and community involvement.

Best communication methods: Information offered in bite-sized pieces through e-mail, internal company blogs, Facebook or Dropbox. Information should be creative and timely.

Why Change?

Duxbury says employers that don’t meet the needs of these generations risk baby boomers retiring early or retiring on the job. Gen X might not leave right away but will be gone within five years. Gen Y will leave even without another job to go to.

With predictions that there will be a shortage of 85 million high- and medium-skilled workers in the world by 2020, Duxbury and Johnson’s advice provides interesting food for thought.

Kathy Bergstrom, GBA
Editor, Publications at the International Foundation





Kathy Bergstrom, CEBS

Editor, Publications at the International Foundation

Favorite Foundation service/product: Benefits Magazine and Plans & Trusts

Benefits related topics that interest her most: Financial literacy, health and wellness programs

Favorite Foundation conference moment: Hearing attendees sing “O, Canada” at Canadian Annual in addition to hearing the anthem sung in both French and English.

Personal Insight: Whether she’s collecting information for a magazine story or hanging out with her family and friends, you know Kathy is fully engaged. Her listening ear and introspective nature provide reassuring presence to those enjoying her company.

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