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When it comes to employee engagement, businesses are grappling with the challenge of how to best engage Millennials, the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, in purposeful and rewarding work.

A study by Holleran Consulting finds that baby boomers are the most engaged generation (53%), while Millennials are the least engaged generation (41%). So, what is causing this significant difference in employee engagement between the age groups?

Many experts, researchers, and organizations (including WeSpire!) have tried to answer this question, in order to understand what the future of work may look like. However, some new research has emphasized the role that age plays in terms of employee engagement levels, putting less of an emphasis on how generations differ. The general theory is that what one looks for in a career differs from when you are a recent graduate, to when you have a family, to when you are approaching retirement. And what Millennials expect from and do in terms of their careers are strikingly similar to what the Baby Boomers did in their 20s and 30s.

Yes, research shows Millennials tend to gravitate towards organizations that incorporate career development programs, have corporate social responsibility programs, and value employee engagement. However, research also shows that most people had these same expectations when they were first entering the workforce.

Purpose: The Common Denominator

Regardless of age or generation, the one thing that everyone wants to get out of their job is a sense of purpose and fulfillment. However, there is no magic bullet to helping employees find their sense of purpose at work. Different demographics, cohorts, and individuals are inspired and motivated by different factors, making it crucial to provide a variety of programs for employees to get involved in. Volunteer opportunities, employee resource groups, corporate sustainability initiatives, and other positive impact programs all provide employees with a chance to connect with like-minded colleagues and get involved in activities that are good for the business, society and themselves.

If business leaders want to cultivate a culture of positivity and productivity, they must embrace purposeful work. This mentality of understanding and appreciating employees and their work will prevent employees from feeling disengaged or seeking other opportunities.