Valued Work Traits Differ Among Age Groups

June 18, 2008 ( - A report from Sibson Consulting, a division of Segal, indicates employers should focus on different factors for retaining employees of different age groups.

According to Sibson, the results of the 2006 Rewards of Work study show work content is always the biggest motivator of good performance and most consistent driver of retention, regardless of age. Compensation and career factors become less important factors for retention as employees age, while affiliation becomes slightly more important.

Specifically, career drops from the most important driver of retention for respondents under age 31 (83%) to the least important driver of retention for respondents over the age of 60 (42%). Those over age 60 cite work content (77%) followed by affiliation (64%) and benefits (57%) as the most important drivers.

Affiliation is a less significant driver of retention for 41- to 50-year-olds (55%) and those under 30 (62%).

Affiliation, Benefits, Career, Compensation, and Work Content are the five elements of Sibson’s employee value proposition, and factors included in these elements are:

  • Affiliation – organization commitment, work environment, citizenship, trust;
  • Benefits – health, retirement, recognition, perquisites, time off;
  • Career – advancement, personal growth, training, employment security;
  • Compensation – base salary, incentives, cash recognition, premium pay, pay process;
  • Work Content – variety, challenge, autonomy, meaningfulness, feedback.

Sibson also looked at what factors motivated employee engagement (knowing what to do at work and wanting to do the work). The analysis found that employees under age 51 are less engaged than those over age 51.

Between 79% and 83% of workers in all age groups indicated work content was the most important element for motivating performance. Affiliation was the element that was rated highest for motivating engagement among survey respondents over age 60.

Benefits were rated as important or very important by a greater proportion of those under age 30 (62%) than all other age groups.

Sibson found that all five elements of the employee value proposition decrease in effectiveness to motivate performance as employees grow older. After age 40, less than two-thirds of respondents were motivated by affiliation, career, compensation, or benefits.

Sibson recommends that companies review their rewards of work structure as employee demographics are changing and suggests that, rather than create unique reward programs for different age groups, employers can adopt a program that has the flexibility to adapt to changing employee needs.

The Sibson report is here .