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Attracting a Multigenerational Workforce: Tuition Reimbursement, Mentoring & More


With low unemployment across the U.S. and Texas, employers need to boost benefits and perks to attract and retain the best talent. As an additional challenge, today’s workforce includes multiple generations with differing career goals and requirements to feel rewarded and appreciated.

The Pew Research Center has defined the generations as:

  • Baby Boomers: born 1946 – 1964 (55 – 73 years old)
  • Generation X: born 1965 – 1980 (39 – 54 years old)
  • Millennials or Gen Y: born 1981 – 1996 (23 – 38 years old)
  • Gen Z or iGen: born 1997 – Present (0 – 22 years old)

Career Growth and Lifelong Learning

Workforce magazine says more companies are offering tuition reimbursement benefits to their employees, and they’ve received positive feedback because of the perk. According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, 3.8 percent of corporations offer tuition reimbursement, marking a 1.1 percent increase from 2016.

In addition to tuition reimbursement, there are other ways to encourage lifelong learning and career growth. For example, flexibility is desirable across the generations. Younger team members want assignments and learning opportunities that foster new skill sets to propel career growth.

The AMA, American Management Association, spotlights a recent AARP study, which states the majority of Baby Boomers (63%) plan to continue working into retirement. About 5% of Baby Boomers say they will never retire because they love working or need to supplement retirement income. For this reason, the AMA advises that more seasoned employees will also want research assignments and paid sabbaticals with opportunities to engage in learning programs.

Communications Styles & Learning Methods

To accommodate a multigenerational workforce, a mix of communications styles and learning methods is recommended. Employers are encouraged to think in terms of unifying, team-building strategies that will help employees learn new skills and align with the organizations’ best practices.

Advancing technologies allows new ways to deliver effective employee training and novel learning methodologies. Millennials prefer quick, timely examples of success stories rather than detailed case studies. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers want examples that are relevant to the workplace and offer knowledge or actions that can be applied to their jobs.

Gen Xers prefer to work independently, while Millennials like to work in teams. Both generations appreciate feedback and want to give and receive input during training.

Of course, technology can be challenging depending on the capabilities among the generations. Individual attention will be helpful for Baby Boomers. In addition, pairing people so that employees who are less comfortable with technology can work with those who are digital natives will spur team members to find common ground with each other.

Modernize Mentoring Programs

Junior and mid-level professionals with mentors advance more quickly, earn higher salaries and are more satisfied in their jobs than professionals without mentors, according to the Harvard Business Review.

The AMA emphasizes the importance of creating structure for mentoring programs to allow more established and experienced workers to transfer knowledge to younger team members. Mentoring is important to ensuring the company’s history and best practices continue from one generation to the next.

Employers can use a variety of mentoring models to enhance the typical one-on-one sessions, such as senior leadership discussion panels. A “speed mentoring” event allows employees to sit across from a company expert, ask a question, discuss, and then move to another expert.

In 1999, Jack Welch, General Electric’s former CEO, introduced Reverse Mentoring in the workplace when he directed hundreds of top managers to find younger employees to teach them about the internet. Twenty years later, reverse mentoring continues to benefit both older and younger team members. Reverse mentoring gives newer employees exposure to executives, along with a chance to develop leadership skills. Not only will generational understanding increase, but employee engagement will also be enhanced.

Collaboration Across Generations

The company’s success as well as employees’ career growth relies on everyone in the organization working together. Corporations that embrace diversity among the generations to create a flexible work environment with ample learning opportunities will be more likely to attract and retain the best talent and create a competitive advantage.

The SMU Professional and Online (SMU PRO) initiative was recently launched with customizable learning opportunities especially for corporations and their team members. The SMU PRO corporate program equips students with the knowledge and skills to transform their lives and organizations. Whether organizations are looking to build their team’s soft skills, increase technical know-how or improve the group dynamic, SMU PRO has solutions.

To learn more about SMU PRO’s certificate, master’s degrees and corporate programs, call 214-768-2273 or email