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The Role of Roles

Employee Engagement for Each Generation in Every Season

Picture this: It is your first day at a new job. Your anticipation mixes with apprehension and anxiety. All sorts of questions fly through your mind: “Is this where I’m supposed to be?” “Will people like me?” “Can I really make a career out of this?” Now flash forward 25 years. You have spent the last two and a half decades working for that organization, building a legacy that will live on even after your departure. You have helped your company build its brand and increase revenue; you have empowered those around you through meaningful relationships; you have been successful by all definitions of the word.

Every employer dreams of having an entire organization of this type of person. Managers often ask themselves, “What made (or makes) them stay for the long term?” Employee retention is one of the leading concerns of most organizations, yet we think they are asking the wrong question. Instead of asking “what” makes people stay, perhaps the question should be “who.” Over 70% of people leave their jobs because of the way they are led, not how much they are paid. It stands to reason that if we want employees to stay, we have to become better leaders. But how? The trick lies in recognizing a few essential leadership roles.


The Employee Cycle

Like your washing machine, dryer, and life, employment comes in cycles. Your employees navigate key phases, performance milestones and challenges as they move from recruitment to departure. To be an effective leader, you must recognize what stage each of your employees is in and respond accordingly. In each stage of the Employee Cycle, the individual has different needs that must be met and questions they ponder:

1.	Prospect – “Is this where I want to work?”  “Am I a fit?” 2.	New Hire – “Where do I fit?”  “Am I welcome here?” “Am I getting connected to the job, the culture and the social network?”  3.	Learner – “Am I learning what I need to know?”  “Do I have the tools and information I need to do my job?”  “Am I growing and developing?”  4.	Performer – “Am I acknowledged for my contribution?”  “Am I motivated to accomplish my goals?”  5.	Legacy Leaver – “Am I sharing my knowledge?”  “Do you know what I know?”

Once you accurately assess which phase each person is in within their cycle, you can step up and engage them with the tips I’ve outlined here. Be prepared – what follows is packed with a lot of powerful information that will challenge you to grow as a leader and will equip you to engage employees of the multigenerational workforce. But it is only as effective as your commitment to taking action on what you read.



Talent ScoutThis is arguably the most important role a manager plays. As the Talent Scout, it is your responsibility to recruit and hire the most talented individuals who are committed to the vision of your organization. This means that it is not only up to you to accurately assess the skills of the prospect, but to clearly communicate the value of your organization to the person. If they are going to commit to the company for the duration of their career, they have to buy into the vision, mission, values, direction, etc. of your company. It’s up to you to help the best candidates fall in love with your company even before they first punch in.

 To Each His Own

Engaging the generations in each stage may be difficult, but here a few ideas to help you out. Understand what attracts each generation to an employer, and then customize your communication to attract them. For instance, try these promises:

  • Millennials “There’s a lot of challenge and a lot of structure here; you won’t be bored!”
  • Generation X – “You can be entrepreneurial and highly skilled here.”
  • Baby Boomers – “We need your unique contribution; you’re part of something bigger here.”
  • The Silents “Your experience is welcome; teach us what you know.”



OrienteerOnce your prospect joins your team as a new hire, your role shifts from one of recon to one of integration. It is up to you to help your new hire acclimate to the culture, embrace the position and connect to the social network. The best managers recognize the importance of monitoring and guiding the interconnections within the group, the socio-organizational norms that create (or diminish) the collaboration and cooperation critical to delivering a stellar product or outstanding service. Truthfully, the first 30 days determine the next 10 years for new hires.

To Each His Own

Try these generation-specific actions to ensure that new hires of each generation remain committed:

  • Millennials Provide a buddy and a social network. Fill them in on the “unwritten rules.”
  • Generation X – Describe the performance expectations and measures. Answer the questions “Where do I fit?” “What will this job do for my skills portfolio?”
  • Baby Boomers – Describe where their experience fits. Provide introductions to senior leaders; build the new Boomer’s visibility.
  • The Silents Share the organization’s history and mission. Let them know why people are proud to work here.



Performance CoachThis critical role empowers employees in the Learner stage and guides them to the Performer stage. The Performance Coach is responsible for reinforcing positive behaviors and correcting negative ones. As the performance coach, you provide career insight and on-the-job feedback to assist in development; you prepare your team members for future positions and are not afraid to have realistic career conversations; you are their advocate, cheerleader and the voice of reason on a daily basis. Development is everywhere – you just have to commit to helping your team members grow!

 To Each His Own

Manage members of different generations in ways that are meaningful to them:

  • Millennials Explain the importance of seemingly routine tasks. Expect a lot, give a lot of feedback.
  • Generation X – Build their skills portfolio (change it up, job rotations, job swaps, management training). Candidly discuss reputation.
  • Baby Boomers – Freshen up jobs with lateral moves. Keep their skills up to date; fight skill obsolescence.
  • The Silents Discuss retirement/transitions. Have them mentor others.



Engagement ExpertThe Engagement Expert is tasked with fostering one-on-one connections to keep the talent you fought hard to get and grow. Performers who are inspired, motivated and challenged will continue to contribute at high levels. While the other managerial roles listed here focus on the success of the group, the Engagement Expert needs to hone in on individual needs and be very deliberate about creating a strong, trusting relationship with each person. You must let each person know he or she is valued and successfully motivate each to achieve organizational objectives.

To Each His Own

Try these techniques to engage members of each generation:

  • Millennials Personalize their work. Create a collegial work climate.
  • Generation X – Resist micromanaging. Offer flexible work hours, flexible work.
  • Baby Boomers – Offer work-life balance (take all that vacation!) and new challenges that match their skills.
  • The Silents Create significant mentoring roles. Appreciate and acknowledge.



Legacy CreatorLast but not least, the leader as Legacy Creator ensures that the know-how of employees doesn’t get lost in transition. This managerial role assists Legacy Leavers in sharing their knowledge with others in the organization. As the Legacy Creator you are responsible for creating a talent foundation that is necessary for your organization to be successful in the future. You foster resilience, continuity, knowledge sharing and teachability, and equip your team for whatever may lie ahead.

To Each His Own

Need ideas on how to effectively capture the knowledge of Legacy Leavers from each generation? Try these:

  • Millennials Reverse mentoring / adopt-a-Boomer. Ask them to document critical knowledge of highly skilled employees and use creativity (documentary film, YouTube clip, story, desk guide, etc.).
  • Generation X – Ask them to be a subject matter expert on a specific topic/be a resource.
  • Baby Boomers – Use their experience to lead critical initiatives, implement change.
  • The Silents Redesign their jobs so they have the time to teach.


The Ball Is in Your Court

Just as the wheels on the bus go round and round, so does the cycle for employees and managers alike. The challenge is for you to recognize what role best suits each of your employees, and engage the multigenerational workforce accordingly. You never know—you might just be investing in the success of the next Steve Jobs.