Life expectancy in the UK is on the rise. By 2030 living to 90 may become the norm in some areas. As our population ages, so too does our workforce, as retirement age is forced up. From December 2018, retirement age (currently 65 for men and 62 and a half for women) will start to increase for both men and women to reach 66 by October 2020. The government has also announced five-year reviews of the pension age to be in line with life expectancy figures.

Increased life expectancy and retirement age will create a bigger age gap between colleagues within a workforce, which already spans four generations. As a result, there is more complexity for HR departments, who must manage employees with varying demands and expectations from their employers. Keeping employees happy, when such a gap exists, is a significant challenge to HR departments. So we have to ask, who is missing out? And as a result, who is disengaged?

Recent research revealed just how much the factors that motivate employees vary. The most common motivating factors across the population are salary (79 per cent), work/life balance (66 per cent) and career progression (43 per cent). However, the whole story is not that simple.

This research reveals that there is no one-size fits all policy when it comes to HR. We’re seeing vast differences in the benefits and rewards that the different age groups expect from their employers. As employees mature, their priorities change. It is only natural that as they reach different stages in life they become motivated in different ways.

Millennials – or 18-24 year olds – are the group least motivated by salary (73 per cent, average 79 per cent). Instead, they favour training and support (47 per cent, average 36 per cent) taking a longer-sighted view of their careers. However, these younger employees see perks such as subsidised meals and other financial incentives (gym memberships and discounts etc.) as job essentials. When it comes to time spent at the office, 75 per cent of 18-24 olds see an eight or nine hour work day as acceptable, the highest of any other age group. At the same time, Millennials demonstrate a clear reluctance to take on responsibility or ownership within the office, with only 19 per cent looking for responsibility.

Baby boomers – or over 45s – select salary above anything else when choosing a job role. At the same time, work-life balance is a key driver for them, with 74 per cent of over 55s citing it as a high priority. However, baby boomers are more willing to take on responsibility, with one third of them actively looking for ownership. Most surprisingly, baby boomers like their gadgets, with 12 per cent of 45-54 year olds expecting their employer to provide them with up-to-date technology –this figure rises to 14 per cent in the over 55s.


Managing a widening age gap brings with it multiple challenges. What’s clearly needed is flexibility of benefits packages to suit different generations. This individual approach will help safeguard the continued success for the organisation, ensuring the business and its people are aligned and all pulling in the same direction.