Cognitive Attrition and Employee Engagement (Part 3)

Note: This series is based on the paper My Generation

One of the biggest challenges in the modern workplace is employee engagement.  An organization that struggles to keep employees engaged faces an onset of cognitive or mental attrition. So why do we need engaged employees? Engaged employees are happier, more productive and more efficient.
Gallup does a survey every year on employee engagement, identifying three types of employees.  The Gallup research shows that “business units in the top quartile of Gallup's engagement database have 37% less absenteeism, 25% less turnover in high-turnover organizations (such as retail), 49% less turnover in low-turnover organizations, 27% less shrinkage, 49% fewer safety incidents, and 60% fewer product defects when compared to business units in the bottom quartile. Top-quartile business units also have 12% higher customer metrics, 18% higher productivity, and 16% higher profitability than business units in the bottom quartile.”
As the age of the workforce changes, so do the things required to engage employees. The 25 year old wants time off, the 40 year old wants insurance to cover pink medicine for ear infections for infants, and the 60 year old wants to do work that leaves a legacy. The changing desires and needs present firms an opportunity to increase employee engagement levels across the generational levels of its workforce. 
The cognitive attrition that comes with a lack of engagement is an area where businesses can improve, and learning how to engage a generationally diverse audience can lead to growth in the marketplace. There are many studies that show the relationship between employee-customer-shareholder satisfaction.
According to a Partner from Great Places to Work Institute, the company that provides data for Fortune Magazines 100 Best Companies to Work For “the number one thing tied to job satisfcation is trust in the workplace … [and] building in mechanisms for addressing generational diversity will lead to trust in the organization and peers, among employees of diverse generations”. 
Why is engagement so important these days?
Building a culture that fully engages employees of varying generations will serve to ensure that as the economy turns, companies are able to retain their future leaders. According to the Economist “managers will have to make an extra effort to keep the “Net Generation” motivated in times of economic downturn, to prevent an exodus of young talent once the economy improves”. The ramifications of not improving the enagagement of our various generations has implications on future staffing, leadership development and retention as well as making the most of our current staff.
According to PIP Magazine, “With baby boomers filling most executive positions, there is a disproportionate amount of leadership talent and knowledge vested in employees who will soon be leaving the workforce. Not only are younger employees insufficiently prepared to fill the knowledge and leadership gap—there simply aren't enough to fill the shortage. 
This shortfall is coming because the number of baby boomers born within an 18-year period, from 1946 to 1964, was so huge—78 million people. And U.S. birth rates have been on a steady decline since the late 1970s. Citizens of child-bearing age just aren't having enough kids to meet the country's need for future workers.”
Looking only at the age of the workforce, it’s likely that 50 percent of the current workforce would prefer to retire in the next 10 years. Another problem we’ve found at many companies that folks are often staying longer instead of retiring, since their needs as Veterans are not being adequately addressed, they are not fully engaged. 
It is clear that we face some significant challenges with engaging both these segments of the workforce. 
When it comes to generational diversity, the risk of inaction is significant: 
  1. Corporations stand to lose more employees through lack of engagement in the short-term and head count attrition over the long term as the economy stabilizes.
  2. Corporations will lose opportunities to capture experiential learning and institutional knowledge buried in the minds of our veterans, before they retire.
  3. Our future leaders, Gen Y and Gen X will not develop and remain focused on their careers at their current companies - instead their focus will be around where to go for their next job.
  4. Veterans – or more significantly – the experienced boomers who reach their late 50’s and 60’s - will spend the last of their years waiting to retire, collecting a (big) paycheck, and yet, by Gallup terms, are disengaged or worse, and companies will lose out on the opportunity for these folks to mentor, teach, learn from, and engage with the younger generation to develop a new and improved corporate culture.
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