(This piece was derived from a Pocketstop Whitepaper)
For the first time in history, we live at a time in which businesses have employees aged between 18 and 80 working together. This generational diversity brings both benefits and challenges to employers.
The multi-generational staff has different work ethics, training expectations, attitudes to technology, and preferences in communications.
In today’s workplace, aside from internal and external problems that every business faces, a greater challenge will be managing multi-generational teams and helping them to find synergy, putting personal prejudices and values aside.
We currently have five generations making up the majority of our workforce across the US:
• The Greatest Generation (Born between 1925 and 1946)
• Baby Boomers (Born between 1946 and 1964)
• Generation Xers (Born between 1965 and 1980)
• Generation Ys or Millennials (born after 1980)
• Generation Z’s or Post Millennials (Born 1996–2010)
The Five Generations Explained:
The Greatest Generation (Veterans/Silents):
The Greatest Generation/Veterans are regarded as the most loyal employees. Their values were shaped by events such as World War II, the Great Depression and the boom years after the war. This makes them the most risk-averse and highly-dedicated employees.
Many of them have served in the military or married to someone with a military background. Therefore, discipline and structure are usually important to these workers.
Military veterans also tend to be very respectful to seniority and hierarchy. As they are typically independent and disciplined. When they are given a seemingly impossible task, they often find a way to get it completed, without complaint.
High-quality standards mean a lot to this generation, making them conscious and critical of others’ experience and qualifications.
Despite being hard workers, veterans find personal life more important than work and are respectful to authority and hardworking.
Boomers are the first generation to prioritize work over their personal life. They generally distrust large systems and figures of authority. Some of their values were influenced by a rise in civil rights activism, The Vietnam war, and periods of inflation.
They are more optimistic and adaptable to change than the previous generation, However, they are primarily responsible for the “Me Generation,” and its pursuit of personal gratification. This can be identified by the sense of entitlement present in some of today’s workforce.
Back when the dot.com marketplace crashed, retirement savings of many Baby Boomers were decimated almost overnight.
Some now find themselves having to work longer careers than they had initially planned. An AARP survey of 2,001 people born in this era revealed that 63% plan to work at least part-time in retirement, while 5% said that they never plan to retire, some because they like working, others because they need the money to replace lost retirement savings.
In summary, many boomers are workaholics, living to work, instead of working to live!
Generation Xers are widely regarded as the “slacker” generation. They tend to question authority figures and have been responsible for implementing the concept of work/life balance.
Born in a time of low population growth, this generation is more independent than previous generations and generally provides a highly technical skillset.
Because Gen Xers place work low down on their list of priorities, company leaders from the Baby Boomer generation assume these workers are not as dedicated. however, Gen Xers are often willing to develop their skill sets and take on new challenges. They are adaptable to job instability in the post-downsizing era.
As the first generation to grow up around computers, technology is inextricably woven into their lives. As law firms and corporate legal departments integrate new technological tools, this generation has learned and adapted. A common characteristic of Gen Xers is their comfort level with PDAs, smartphones, email, laptops, tablets and other technology employed in the legal workplace.
At over 76 million strong, according to Pew Research Centre millennials were born between 1981 and 2000, and are now the largest percentage of the global workforce.
As the first generation to grow up alongside technology that enables instant connection globally, millennials thrive in tech-driven, flexible working environments.
Because of the sheer number of millennials in today’s workforce, they currently shape the way organizations think about effective talent management and retention strategies. Now that oldest millennials enter their mid-thirties, and baby boomer retirement rates are increasing, understanding both their generational values is crucial when hiring for your business.
Generations Z is also known as Post-Millennials and they account for nearly one-third of the world total population.
Generation Z is a tech-savvy multicultural generation who are highly global, in both perspective and population, they love to work in multiple countries, and are predominantly the children of Generation X and some of Generation Y.
They have never seen a world without advanced technology and mobile devices, and see themselves very connected through the Internet.
According to The Daily Telegraph, “Generation Zers are keen at looking after their money and making a better world.”
Harry Wallop, journalist of The Daily Telegraph” stated that: “Generation Zers are safer, smarter, more mature and eager to change the world when comparing with Generation Y.”
Challenges Faced by a Multi-Generational Workforce:
There are several challenges faced by companies that employ a multigenerational workforce, these include:
Company culture is an integral part of the dynamics and personality of a company, especially when seen from the outside.
Although some companies are guilty of trying to embellish culture by creating tech-focused playrooms for millennials, it takes the right balance of maturity and creativity to spread culture across several generations correctly.
Companies must look for solutions to keep their entire workforce happy — hopefully resulting in better growth and increased productivity.
Hosting events and celebrating professional and personal occasions together helps to balance office cultures. These celebrations allow different generations to grow and prosper together.
The idea here is to opt for a culture which isn’t hugely dissimilar to any of the existing age-groups within the organizations.
Older workers sometimes look at their younger colleagues as entitled, lazy and obsessed with technology. Some may feel uncomfortable if Millennials and Gen X challenge the system that they are comfortable with.
On the other side, younger workers can view older workers as being stuck in their ways, as they refuse or struggle to embrace new, innovative ways of thinking and doing things.
Stereotypes must be put to rest if an organization is to overcome this challenge. This requires conscious effort from top tier management and HR professionals, encouraging workers to stop distinguishing, differentiating and presuming.
Company leaders who can readily identify and fix this dysfunction with immediate attention. They need to intervene whenever appropriate.
Naturally, this can be a huge problem area for multigenerational businesses. While the millennials rely more on tweets, texts, and instant messages, the older employees are sometimes more comfortable with phone calls and paperwork.
This growing challenge is habit-based and needs to be countered with certain adjustments.
The best approach is to form a balanced team with an exact number of millennials and baby boomers — complementing each other at all times.
While sparks might fly initially, things will eventually fall into place. There should be team building vigils and sessions which work as ice-breakers implemented.
Lastly, every worker must be expected to act with empathy and patience around varying communication preferences.
The modern-day workplace has completed a period of evolution — more so with the inclusion of mobile-centric work trends, BYOD, and other ideologies.
This evolution has jarred transitions when it comes to the older workers who are used to getting evaluated based on the hours they put in.
However, the younger workforce prefers completing the work and going home as they believe that the time spent in the office isn’t in direct correlation to productivity.
The idea of work-life balance is pretty important for Generation Y, with older generations of employees concentrating more on traditional values such as staying behind to work outside of working hours.
However, Work-based dissimilarity isn’t the main challenge here. The problem occurs when millennials get more praise compared to the more rigid or traditional workers. Leaders need to acknowledge every section of their workforce, in order to keep everybody inspired.
Opportunities to Avoid Pitfalls and Thrive:
In order to avoid challenges and thrive as a multi-generational workforce, employees and managers must:
- Stay Respectful, Flexible and Understanding:
By maintaining flexibility to accommodate all generations, and respecting differences wherever the occur, managers can encourage unity and collaboration right across the generation board.
• Avoid Stereotypes:
By working hard to understand one another’s needs and expectations, we can eradicate stereotypes from the workplace. Yes, there will be some very staunch differences between generations and their mindsets. No, this isn’t the end of the world!
• Be Open to Teach/Learn from others:
It’s about adaptability in the modern workplace. Today’s workers must be prepared to learn and to teach in order to strengthen their offering as a multi-generational powerhouse.
• Adapt your Communication Style:
Older generations will need to be open to adapting to new technologies, whilst younger generations need to exercise patience with the older workers. Some companies may wish to have a streamlined method of internal communications, one which uses only a single piece of software adaptable across all devices and styles.
• Focus on Similarities Rather Than Differences:
At the end of the day, everybody within your business is working for the greater good and continued success of the business as a whole. Encouraging teams with different skill sets could help multi-generational workforces complement one another.
Multi-generational workforces can be hard to manage and difficult to maintain. However, they also bring together strengths and positive attributes that you simply wouldn’t find in workforces that employed staff from just one or two generations.
In fact, multi-generational companies are the most robust and successful in today's economy.
The rules of communication don’t change when different generations work together. remaining impartial, listening and sharing important details are as relevant as they have ever been.
The difference now is identifying and utilizing the correct modes of communication to make everybody comfortable and increase synergy within the workplace.