HR and L&D TrendsLearning Analytics

Who are perennials and why do modern organizations need them?

perennial plant

Perennial plants are long-lasting plants that cope well with harsh environmental conditions and grow even bigger, more durable, and resistant to change with every year. Perennial workers have the same characteristics, and as such, they make extremely valuable – although often undervalued – members of many organizations.

Perennials exceed the boundaries of their own generation

Gina Pell was the first to describe this group. The entrepreneur observed that they were ever-blooming people of all ages, open to development and curious of the world around them. Perennials are vigorous, creative, and passionate people: all those that transcend the stereotypes and go beyond the popular generation labels. They are up to date with the latest events and technologies; they keep searching for opportunities to learn new skills and make practical use of them.

All these qualities make perennials incredibly efficient employees. A meta-analysis reveals that employee engagement depends on personality traits in 50%. There is also a correlation between being a diligent, sociable, and optimistic person and an engaged, pro-active, and enthusiastic employee. This means that organizations hiring perennials and taking their needs into account while designing their L&D interventions may expect increased profits, enhanced employee wellbeing, and better productivity at work.

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Multigenerational teams are growing in strength

Modern career paths have become more dynamic and flexible than before: these changes concern virtually every generation. This is caused by global digitalization, rapid economic changes, and longer working age. Employees aged 65 and more have the fastest-growing labor force participation and they are increasingly open to changing their jobs, reskilling, or starting new companies. On the other hand, there are more managers aged 20 to 30 who are assigned their posts thanks to their considerable potential and performance. Nowadays, nobody is surprised when a young manager supervises a team of specialists who are often much older than their leader.

A survey launched by the World Economic Forum found that 68% of organizations would purposely design mixed-age teams to make full use of their joint potential. However, according to a study by Deloitte, only 6% of the respondents agree that their managers are equipped to lead multigenerational teams effectively. Even if they work in a diversified environment, employees would like to be perceived as individuals, with their personal talents and contributions to the organization taken into consideration. And yet, numerous companies still see their workers mostly as representatives of some kind of demographic data, such as age.

Age divisions are not enough

According to the 2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends, talent development strategies in a number of organizations still depend largely on generational differences and demographics such as age, gender, or job tenure. Much less frequently, L&D activities are planned on the basis of segmentation focused on individual behaviors or attitudes. Meanwhile, many respondents believe that collecting information about personal qualities would be effective because, in the modern employee profile, generation-dependent traits are not a sufficient point of reference.

Even 42% of the respondents claim that work behaviors such as whether a person is a specialist or a manager will be most important for segmenting the workforce in the following three years. However, only 27% say that their organizations are currently segmenting the staff this way. The same refers to data collection concerning individual employee attributes. Up to 41% of those surveyed say that personal development paths adjusted to traits such as introversion, extroversion, or teamwork skills will be most important in the following three years. Only 22% of organizations are currently taking this approach, though.

Perennials are employees with years of experience who adapt to changes quickly

An analysis of the changes faced by companies during the pandemic reveals that the generation gap in organizations is not really an obvious thing. It turns out that no significant differences emerged between employees of different ages in adapting to new technology tools. The percentage of employee who report any problems in this area is the same for all age groups. The above-mentioned analysis brings another discovery: younger employees are more likely to have difficulties adapting to change than employees aged 60 and more. This might mean that the ability to adapt to new conditions grows higher with age – just like in the case of perennial plants.

The phrase “ever-blooming”, which Gina Pell used to describe perennial employees, suggests that this group is comprised of people of various age groups, so it’s impossible to define it solely by means of generational categories. What all perennials have in common is their pro-active attitude, curiosity, and high level of engagement. This is why L&D specialists should go beyond the categories of age to develop perennials’ skills and competencies. Instead, they should focus on employees’ behaviors, values, and attitudes and design talent development paths based on this type of data.

5 factors of employee segmentation

Some companies have already embraced the potential of gaining deep understanding of their employees’ mindsets, values, and individual traits. One of these organizations is MetLife, an international insurance corporation. Based on in-depth research and careful observation, MetLife identified 5 factors that should be taken into account in employee segmentation.

  1. Demographics – age, gender, income, education;
  2. Firmographics – job tenure, industry, role, nature of the position;
  3. Attitudes toward life – optimism toward future, orientation toward change, present orientation, reactions to stress and uncertainty;
  4. Attitudes toward work – need for work-life balance, motivations for staying at job, conditions necessary to perform a job;
  5. Needs from the employer – career development plans, salary, benefits, work culture.

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How to support perennials at work?

Apart from gathering detailed data about employees’ individual characteristics, values, and needs, L&D departments should also rethink their models of knowledge and development management. To respond to perennials’ endless willingness to learn, L&D teams can prepare a development platform to help employees regularly hone their skills at a time of their choice. Thanks to individual development paths with various forms of learning (short – videos, one-pagers; or long – e-learning), employees are able to expand their knowledge, even in the areas that are not strictly related to their specialization but may increase their overall performance.

Another method of supporting perennials is setting new challenges that will fuel their development. This way, their engagement may bring profits to the organization, at the same time providing them with an opportunity to assume new roles within it. Best practices include inviting active and involved employees to share their knowledge and feedback with other team members. By enabling them to do this, you will make sure their experience and methods of work spread across the whole organization and motivate their colleagues.

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