This article was updated on September 5, 2018.

Understanding your talent could be key to retain employees. Harvard Business Review reveals that the "intangible things" employees want from employers can vary among age groups. For instance, millennials desire personal development, Gen Xers want friendly employers and baby boomers seek recognition. Gallup found that age, along with other factors such as education level and gender, can affect employee engagement and retention.

The effect of demographics is powerful, and HR leaders who tap into this knowledge will have a better understanding of where employees are coming from. Still, employee engagement across all three generations is tied to serving the vision of their organization. "Managers should seek ways to help these employees verbalize and internalize what the company's mission and purpose means to them," Gallup states.

Let's explore when and how you should source data to shape your employee experience.

A Tailored Employee Experience Matters

We're living in exciting times — data has revolutionized the way HR leaders think about employee engagement. Consider treating employees like consumers by understanding employee needs by segment. This can improve the assignment of jobs and locations, the development of performance metrics, the analysis of engagement and flight risks and the understanding of attitudinal trends. Insight into age group can also be used to shape nonmonetary compensation plans and benefits strategies for engagement and retention.

In addition to tailoring workplace structure and benefits, HR teams can also maximize the ROI of their offerings. For example, financial literacy classes for recent graduates can inspire early, smart planning for retirement. And understanding the age groups most at risk for wage garnishment — individuals aged 35-44 — can ensure internal HCM systems are prepared for compliance.

Understanding the Complexity of Individuals

With four generations in the workplace, balancing the unique needs of different age groups can be a challenge for HR leaders and business managers. Walden University found that age groups can have a statistically significant impact on employee retention, perhaps even more so than other demographic factors. For instance, the study says employers should double down on millennial retention as baby boomers head toward retirement.

However, age is not the only factor to take into account. Midsized furniture maker Herman Miller (HM) notes that, while millennials, Gen Xers, baby boomers and traditionalists may model general patterns, there will always be outliers who have nothing in common with national statistics. Because of this, HM says understanding the complexity of individuals serves everyone in business and society well.

National statistics about age groups lend insight into the types of employer offerings and workplace experience your employees need, but it's not the whole picture. HR leaders would be wise to consider factors such as culture, education and individual preference when it comes to retention strategies.

Let Your Data Work for You

1. Benchmarking — Understand trends on a national, industry, regional, team and individual basis.

2. Data Exchange — Combine workforce data with insights from social media and other sources for a 360-degree overview.

3. Predictive Analytics — Predict the likelihood of workforce management outcomes, based on a wide number of data factors beyond sheer age groups.

Simply put, your own HR data is likely the most effective way to learn how your employees match up with national trends. Look beyond national studies and focus on workforce data that is truly reflective of your organization to retain employees.

Tags: Workforce Analytics Turnover and Retention Workforce Generations Large Business Research & Insights Articles HR