Generations Value Different Rewards

September 24, 2008 ( - A new WorldatWork survey finds that most total rewards programs were not put in place to address the needs of a specific workforce segment.

Phased retirement is an exception – 20% of survey respondents say their phased retirement program was put in place due to concern that the workforce would suddenly shrink as a large number of middle-aged employees met retirement age. Phased retirement is also cited as most used by the silent generation (born 1924 – 1946).

Baby boomers (born 1946 – 1964) most utilize financial planning services and education (88%), followed by wellness initiatives and recognition programs (78% each), according to the survey results. Less than 50% of baby boomers utilize flexible work arrangements – surprising given that they are considered the “sandwich” generation and often have both child care and elder care responsibilities.

Mentoring programs (75%) were ranked as the most utilized by Gen Y (born 1978 – 1995), followed by paid time off (71%), while Gen X (born 1965 – 1977) most utilized career ladders and pathways (86%) and access to information networks (83%).

Of the programs included in the survey, recognition programs (85%), paid time off (80%), and wellness initiatives (79%) are the most prevalent. WorldatWork says this is likely because they are programs that meet cross-generational needs.

The WorldatWork survey finds that generational differences in the workforce are not currently top of mind for compensation and benefits practitioners. Only 12% of respondents say this is a significant issue right now, though a majority (53%) believe it will warrant more attention over the next five years.

While a majority (64%) of companies say they have all four generations within their workforce, only 3% are actively planning and executing employee rewards strategies for multiple generations. Fifty-six percent of organizations do not consider generational differences when designing total rewards programs. In addition, 80% do not have an organization-wide strategy that calls for consideration of a multigenerational workforce when designing, administering or communicating total rewards programs.

When asked which generation they currently spend the most effort and resources to attract and recruit, over half (52%) stated they attract and recruit equally across all generations; 24% said they focus mainly on Gen Y; and 20% on Gen X. Likewise, 62% of respondents report their organizations are currently spending resources and efforts to keep all generations motivated in their work equally.

"The lack of attention to generational differences could thwart efforts to attract, motivate and retain top talent," said Lenny Sanicola, benefits practice leader for WorldatWork, in a press release. "Companies will soon have to confront the need for a rewards strategy to meet the diverse needs of a multigenerational workforce."

A total of 372 members participated in The WorldatWork survey, "Rewarding a Multigenerational Workforce," conducted between May and June 2008. The survey report is here .