In a recent coaching session, the manager grumbled that too much of the company’s focus was being placed on attracting, developing and retaining millennials. He felt that the company was overlooking the baby boomers and Generation X in their organization.

His observation raises a challenge that all organizations face in today’s talent market — retaining and engaging all employees. Engaging all employees is not an easy task because each generation has different workplace motivators that need to be met to feel engaged.

The first step in engaging all generations in your organization is to understand them.  Here are the generation definitions, broken down by ages:

»Greatest Generation (before 1928)

»Silent Generation (1928 to 1945), ages 72-89

»Baby boomers (1946 to 1964), ages 53-71

» Generation X (1965 to 1977), ages 39-52

»Generation Y (First-wave millennials, born 1978 to 1989), ages 28-39

»Generation Z (Second-wave millennials, born 1990 to 2000), ages 17 to 27

All of these generations were shaped by the things that were happening in the world around them while they were growing up. As a result, each generation has different expectations and motivations. No wonder we sometimes see such a gap in understanding from one generation to the next.

We can look at the millennials as an example. Trying to engage this generation as one large group may lead to a lack of engagement for as many as half of them. For Generation Y, they grew up in a period of peace and prosperity in the 1990s. Both parents were working and the term “latch key kids” came into our lexicon. As a result, many of these young people are motivated to advance and achieve financial security.

Contrast that with Generation Z, who grew up as children of war after the 9/11 attacks and amid great uncertainty. Helicopter parenting became the trend. These young people are digital natives, and have only known a connected world. Generation Z also experienced the longest protracted recession since the Great Depression. These factors shaped this generation to be motivated by a harmonious work environment and to have impact in an organization and/or society.

Understanding what shaped each generation and their motivators is the first step in creating an effective generational strategy for your organization.  Based on my experience in coaching all generations, here are some of the top strategies for each group that you may want to consider in your organization:

»Baby boomers: They want help with life planning to define their desired legacy and finish their career the way they want to.

»Generation X: This group wants to build financial security through a pay for performance plan and a work hard, play hard philosophy.

»Millennials: This generation is motivated by having a clear career path/plan in a harmonious and connected work environment.

Baby boomers and Gen X traditionally have been motivated by financial security. They are driven by practical results, maximizing both efficiency and return on their investment of time, talent, energy and resources. They are driven to advance and get ahead in the world.

Millennials are more likely to want to live in the moment. They want a harmonious environment. They are open to new ways of doing things and are receptive to new ideas, methods and opportunities that fall outside a defined system for living. They want job flexibility, role clarity and credit for their results.

Remember that all employees are motivated, but their primary motivators are different by generation. These motivators are the reason they work. Behavioral assessments are valuable in identifying the workplace motivators of each employee.

Be a company for the ages by developing a generational strategy for your organization, department or area of responsibility. Understand the generational make-up of your organization or team and develop two strategies to retain and engage each generation. A balanced strategy will help ensure that your employees find fulfillment at work, whatever their age.

Steve Van Remortel is a strategy and talent thought-leader and consultant, blogger, professional speaker, certified behavioral analyst and author of the award-winning book, “Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream.” You can reach him at steve@stopsellingvanillaicecream.com. Register for his free monthly strategy and talent newsletter at www.stopsellingvanillaicecream.com or www.smadvisors.com. His column runs the first Sunday of the month.