This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

June 10, 2009

Older Employees' Better Coping Skills Mean Better Engagement

Our younger workers are most affected by the current economic crisis even as our older employees are able to handle the trials of this difficult economic time. These findings were recently reported in a study by Boston College's Sloan Center on Aging & Work.

Few would dispute that this economic crisis is the worst the United States has experienced since the Great Depression. According to this new report, "The Difference a Downturn Can Make", part of the Centerís Age & Generations Study, this situation has negatively altered perceptions about job security, supervisor support, job quality, inclusion, and overall employee engagement in the workplace.

As businesses strive to "get lean" and increase productivity, US workers (like their counterparts worldwide) are reporting they are overloaded. Related to these findings, employees of all ages reported a decrease in employee engagement, "a measure of how invested and enthusiastic employees are in their work". While employees overall reported declining engagement, older workers polled appeared to be handling the economic storm better than their younger associates.

Workers in "Generation Y", ages 26 and younger, reported the greatest decrease in engagement, followed by those slightly older workers in "Generation X", ages 27 to 42. Concurrently, the reported levels of engagement for Baby Boomers and "Traditionalists", ages 43 and older, hardly changed at all.

Drawing on hard-earned experiences from the past and a time-tested perspective on the ups and downs of the economy, older workers show are more resilient in the face of threatening economic conditions.

Other findings from the study also suggest that for employees who felt that their job security had decreased, perceptions of engagement, supervisor support, inclusion, and job quality declined after the onset of the economic downturn.

Moreover, while younger workers felt the effectiveness of their work team as a whole dropped as their job security declined, older workers felt the effectiveness of their team held steady.

Our forecast is that like, one of the researchers suggested, wise employers will enhance employee engagement by implementing simple, cost-efficient efforts. These efforts will include providing strong training and development opportunities, encouraging work team inclusion, and promoting a culture of workplace flexibility, and supervisor supportiveness.

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