Predicting employee engagement in an age-diverse retail workforce



The news that the early retirement trend has been reversed and current older workers plan to work past conventional retirement ages has been widely heralded. Managers have been encouraged to make adjustments to differences in job conditions that are important to older workers. We use social exchange theory and the norm of reciprocity as a framework for examining six dimensions of job quality for their impact on employee engagement among several groups of older and younger workers at different points in the cycle of their careers in a large retail setting. Employees (N = 6047) were surveyed as part of a large-scale research project. Exploratory factor analyses identified commonalities among 27 job quality variables and four reliable factors. Regression analyses estimated the relationship between four job conditions and employee engagement. Although the relative weights of the factors differed by career stage, the same factors: (1) Supervisor Support and Recognition; (2) Schedule Satisfaction; and (3) Job Clarity were significant predictors of employee engagement for all age groups; (4) Career Development was a predictor for all but the retirement-eligible employees. Findings reveal the importance of recognizing age diversity among both young and old employees. Both theoretical and practical implications are discussed. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.