Understanding the effects of intergenerational contact at work is important given aging and increasingly age-diverse workforces. The aim of this research was to better understand who derives motivational benefits from intergenerational contact, and the processes by which this occurs. To do so, we adopted a motivational lens grounded in need-based theories of work motivation and lifespan development theory. We argue that the motivating effect of intergenerational contact on work engagement via sense of belonging is more pronounced for older compared to younger employees due to changes in goal priorities across the lifespan. Specifically, we posit the generativity motive and perceived remaining time at work as lifespan-related mechanisms that explain the moderating effects of age on the links between intergenerational contact and work engagement. In Study 1, a laboratory experiment with 45 younger and 45 older participants in Switzerland, we found support for a causal effect of intergenerational contact on sense of belonging. In Study 2, a three-wave field study with 560 employees in Germany, we found that sense of belonging mediated the relation between intergenerational contact and work engagement. Further, perceived remaining time at work explained the moderating effect of age on the link between sense of belonging and work engagement. By highlighting age differences in the motivating potential of intergenerational contact, we advance research on intergroup contact, employee motivation, and workforce aging.

workforce aging, intergenerational potential, life span development theory, intergroup contact theory, need-based theories of work motivation
dx.doi.org/10.1093/workar/waab002, hdl.handle.net/1765/133634
Work, Aging and Retirement
Department of Organisation and Personnel Management

Burmeister, A, Hirschi, A, & Zacher, H. (2021). Explaining age differences in the motivating potential of intergenerational contact at work. Work, Aging and Retirement. doi:10.1093/workar/waab002