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Attitudes Before Age: Introducing Long Dash’s Multigenerational Study on the Workforce

Employees are a crucial element in building brand trust; but employers must go beyond generational assumptions and engage employees based on motivations—not age.

Tugce Menguc manages business partnerships at Wordpress VIP and is an alum of Long Dash's strategy and research practice.

To read the entire “Attitudes Before Age” study and view the typology tool, download the full report.

The power of employee-generated content heralds a paradigm shift for brand reach and influence. Employees are quickly becoming consumers’ most trusted source of information about brands, as seen through our Brand Prism research. Still, most brands don’t know what it takes to activate employees—or if they do, aren’t investing in the steps to engage them. Brands must think about their employees with the same sophistication they do their customers. To be competitive, they must commit to a new approach to activating employees as ambassadors. 

Consider the power of employee’s networks. They can have up to 10 times the followers of a brand’s corporate account and employee-shared content often gets 8 times more engagement than content produced by corporate accounts. Yet when was the last time you felt inspired to positively talk about your work or what your company was doing? If you are a manager or in leadership, when was the last time you knew how to inspire your team to advocate for your brand, internally or externally? 

Given this need and the untapped potential in employee’s networks, we at Long Dash were compelled to determine how brand leaders can activate their workforce. We interviewed several brand leaders, read dozens of research reports, and surveyed 1,000 Fortune 500 employees to find out what it takes to create a meaningful experience and can be translated to ambassador actions. Here’s what we learned.  

Don’t assume that happy employees will be ambassadors 

Our research reveals nearly all employees—86 percent*— feel proud to work for their organizations, but less than half are willing to share about their companies on social media. Happy employees don’t necessarily let people know that they are happy. While creating a positive work environment is foundational, savvy brands must now connect what motivates people with new structures that complement that motivation. 

Generational stereotypes provide inaccurate guidance on what motivates employees 

When you search “how to engage your employees” or “how to create employee ambassadors”, the same recommendation appears: identify and leverage employee motivations along generational lines. This approach is built on broader generational research that is then extrapolated to the workforce, and it can be misleading. Consider the widely held belief that Gen Z is the most values-oriented generation. This may hold true for Gen Z as consumers, but not in their workplace motivations and behaviors. When it came to the importance of shared values with their employers, all generations ranked this factor as a top consideration, with Boomers surprisingly leading the charge. This proves that generational stereotypes can offer brands an easy and common understanding about their workforce, but they obscure the nuances of individualism that are at the crux of human motivations. “What wins the hearts and minds of your employees is if you can help people see the attributes that matter to them in your brand, both internally and externally,” explains one brand expert. Although Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers may share some characteristics, executives have to dig deeper and segment their employees by motivation and need—not age. Psychographics are key.

Five typologies that represent your employees as ambassadors  

So what can brand leaders do to capture the untapped potential of their employee networks? In our examination across generations, genders, ages, and industries and exploration of what employees value, what delights them, and what motivates them at work, five groups of employees emerged with differing needs and expectations.  We found groups that are most motivated by salary and flexibility; career advancement; strong leadership; community-building; and self-actualization, or realizing their full potential. 

These categories transcend age, and instead focus on people’s values and perspectives. 

  • Altruists: Socially minded and vocal community leaders who want to make a big impact with the work they do
  • Disciples: Leader-followers and workplace politics whisperers eager to be recognized by top brass
  • Self-Actualizers: Self-oriented personal branders seeking meaning and purpose through work and peer-recognition 
  • Careerists: Professional-progress-seeking worker bees, looking to hone their strengths and achieve clear goals
  • Pragmatists: Transaction-focused employees who value autonomy and incentives

While not everyone is a natural brand ambassador, tailoring messages and actions to meet people’s psychographic needs will empower brands to engage those who are more prone to be.  

Our research dives deeper across these five typologies to uncover employees’ unique motivations and strategies to unlock their potential as brand champions. The psychographic profiles are a starting point for brands to craft a stronger employee experience, develop tools and resources that remove friction, and excite employees to advocate for your brand in the ways that feel most natural to them. We invite you to learn more in our report and typology guide to uncover these untapped benefits within your own workforce.

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