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The American workforce is more diverse than ever before. Employees come from all different backgrounds, depending on their nation of origin, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability status and so on. In the end, human resource consulting firms will tell you it doesn't matter what a worker's background is as long as he or she can get the job done.

However, one difference you may have to pay attention to is how different groups of people communicate and engage with the culture of your business. This can be particularly true for a multigenerational office. Fraser Marlow of BlessingWhite Inc., a guest columnist for Workforce magazine, wrote an article discussing how employers can engage workers from different generations.

Who is working today?
TIAA-CREFF Financial Services analyzed American workers and broke the population down in this way:

  • Less than 10 percent are from the Silent Generation, who were born during the Great Depression and World War II
  • About 40 percent are Baby Boomers
  • About 33 percent are Generation X
  • About 21 percent are millennials

In his column, Marlow noted that there are two main drivers behind employee engagement. Contribution is the feeling that workers have clarity on what they need to do, know how their performance measures up and have opportunities to learn more. Satisfaction is about employees feeling they're assigned to do what they do best, can advance in their careers and have flexibility. Marlow said that these drivers of engagement are the same for employees of any age. Any differences in attitude won't be attributable to generational divides specifically. Instead, what matters is that people's priorities will depend on what stage they're at in life. For example, millennials may be motivated by financial incentives because they need disposable income, while people in Generation X may focus more on work-life balance because of family commitments. Similarly, Baby Boomers want to know their work makes a difference.

Don't stereotype
However, when it comes to assessing engagement in a multigenerational workforce, be careful not to stereotype individuals within groups. Instead, understand that employee engagement tends to be a more individualized phenomenon. Furthermore, emphasize that everyone in the office makes valued contributions to the team.

Ultimately, people from different generations may be motivated by different forces, but in the end, some of their core desires are shared: respect, recognition and a career in clear focus. If you can find a way to make sure everyone feels they're getting these things out of the workplace, they're likely to stay engaged with your company's mission.