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Practices & Policies of Gen-Friendly Organizations

by Diane Thielfoldt & Devon Scheef

401K Plans/Pension/Retirement Plans

Accelerate or shorten the vesting period to accommodate career mobility; make sure benefi ts are transferable between business units or divisions. This promotes fl exible careers, and provides a way for employees to establish their fi nancial independence early in their careers.

Diversity

Diversity is a desirable hallmark for Gen Xers and Millennials who grew up with diversity as a way of life. They know when companies give lip service to diversity. If you’re known in your industry or community as a diversity-friendly employer, you’re miles ahead of the competition in the race for Gen Xer and Millennial talent.

Flexible Work Hours

The ability to manage worklife balance is the number one need of all generations. Many members of the Silent Generation are now beginning to work part-time, or are transitioning to retirement careers; Baby Boomers are caught in the sandwich of caring for aging parents and raising their children; Gen Xers are starting families and many are determined to make different work-family choices than their parents.

Feedback Friendly

While the paperwork for the file is still a requirement, gen-friendly companies provide frequent and useful feedback that looks different than performance appraisals. They encourage informal, on-the-spot discussions that strengthen manager-employee communication — and they advocate that managers receive as much feedback from their employees as they give.

Career Lattices not Ladders

Gen-friendly organizations offer encouragement and flexibility for employees that want to ping-pong through the organization, picking up skills along the way. They offer cross-functional mentoring programs to give their employees an opportunity to explore other parts of the organization. They create non-managerial career ladders, and offer promotions and raises that are tied to building expertise not just promotions into management.

Friendly Expatriate Policies

Many Millennials and Gen Xers have grown up with an international view. They are the best traveled U.S. generations to date, and are comfortable with international business. If you’rea global organization, make sure that your expatriate policies meet the needs of your younger workers.

Expand the Definition of Family

Make your corporate benefits available to significant others. Many employees consider friends and non-traditional relationships as significant to their life foundation as traditional relationships.

“Career” Development: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Consider offering career development workshops that speak to the unique needs of each generation and what they want from work. Build employee loyalty by acknowledging that employees in different life stages and generations have very different needs. For the Silents, offer a “Retreading” session — how to plan for a retirement career, how to work part-time for your organization if desired. For the Baby Boomers, offer a “Retooling” session — how to acquire skills to fulfill personal career goals or acquire skills for a second career with your organization. For the Gen Xers, offer a “Reflection” session — how to take stock of your career to date and make the plans that take you to your goal within the organization. For the Millennials, offer a “Roadmap” session to get their careers off to a good start.

Vacation and Sick Day Policies

Boomers tend to stockpile their vacation and sick days — let them sell their days back to the organization. On the other hand, Xers tend to use both vacation and sick days. Let them bank their days for some type of reward or buy additional time — or even “buy” a week without pay.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

Are your business practices environmentally friendly? Protecting the environment is a concern of Millennials and potential common cause for Millennials and Boomers. Encourage Millennials to lead environmental causes at work. Do you recycle?

Community Involvement

Millennials bring a strong civic pride/orientation to the workplace. Is their contribution to the community encouraged and recognized? Can they take a day off for a community project, e.g. Habitat for Humanity? Is your organization involved in the local community? Does your organization give back? Are your employees aware of your contribution and how to get involved?

Sabbaticals

Time off to learn and grow is not just for academia. Gen Xers who want to growth their career and employability, Millennials with their love for learning, Boomers who are exploring broader utility within the organization, and Silents who are retooling to continue their contribution to your organization might well be encouraged with the option of a sabbatical after an appropriate amount of time/tenure on the job.

Colleagues and Community at Work

How collegial is your office/work environment? Is there time and encouragement for employees to build relationships and friendships at work? Designate common space where people can mix, mingle and build their networks. This will be especially important for the Millennials entering the workplace.