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Today’s workplace is multi-generational. Canadian businesses may employ workers from as many as five different generations. These generations (traditionalists, baby boomers, and generations X, Y, and Z) have varying needs and wants at work.

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While balancing everyone’s preferences can be a challenge, making an effort to accommodate all five generations can help you build a positive culture in your workplace. Here are some tips for doing this.

Consider Varying Communication Styles

There are many differences among the five generations, including preferred communication styles. Traditionalists and baby boomers, the two oldest generations in the workplace, tend to prefer talking to others, either through the phone or through live teleconferences. The two youngest generations, Y and Z, are fans of written communications like texts. Generation X, the middle generation, shares some communication preferences with its older and younger counterparts. They like emails, but they also want to have face-to-face communications. Of course, these are just generalizations and may not apply to every employee within each generation.

To create a positive culture, try to accommodate these varying preferences. When you need to communicate information, use multiple methods so everyone can use their preferred method. For example, if open enrollment time is coming up, you could have an optional in-person meeting but also send the information through email.

Provide Flexible Benefits Options

One of the factors that shapes your company culture is your benefits strategy. A one-size-fits-all benefits plan could be perfect for some generations of workers but not very useful for others. Workers of different ages may have varying health needs. By providing flexible benefits options, you can show employees of all generations that your company cares about their needs.

To make your benefits more flexible, consider offering two or three pre-packaged plan options for employees to choose from. For example, you could decide to offer a basic plan, a standard plan, and a top-tier plan. This lets employees decide which level of coverage is appropriate for their needs at their current stage of life. Don’t worry about the extra administration that comes with offering multiple options. With cloud-based HR technology, it’s easy to keep track of everyone’s choices.

Another option is a health care savings account (HCSA). With these accounts, every employee gets a pre-determined amount of money to spend on CRA-approved health expenses. This provides a great deal of flexibility for employees of any age.

Offer Individualized Incentives and Rewards

Monetary and non-monetary incentives are used to encourage employees to work hard and to reward them for their successes. For best results, remember your employees are individuals and may be motivated by different types of rewards. These preferences may coincide with the general preferences of their generation, though there are always exceptions.

For example, millennials may be looking for time off to volunteer, and boomers might consider gym memberships more valuable. Consider the general preferences of generations as you’re determining which types of incentives you’re willing to offer. You can then ask each employee to let you know which incentives are most motivating to them.

By recognizing employees’ varying preferences, companies can ensure employees feel rewarded and valued. That goes a long way towards creating a positive culture.

The multi-generational workforce is creating new challenges for Canadian employers, but these challenges can be overcome. To create a positive culture in your diverse workplace, consider individual needs when it comes to communication styles, benefits plans, and incentives.


Mike Henezi

Mike Henezi

Mike is the vice president and senior consultant of Apri Insurance Services Inc. He has over 25 years of experience in helping employers manage employee benefits, group retirement, and executive benefits, and has been directly involved in the funding and administration of group insurance programs. Mike helps employers with the design, implementation, and management of employee benefits and group retirement plans. When he’s not meeting with a client or in the office, you can find Mike on the golf course with his son and his buddies. In the winter months, he plays oldtimers hockey.