Workplace dynamics are set to change sharply as generation X joins upper management, millennials move up the leadership track and centennials start working. CEOs across the globe are questioning human resources departments on their “Gen Z readiness”. At the same time, there is also a rise of individuals seeking new or second careers, later in life and those working past retirement age. The diverse perspectives, motivations, attitudes, and needs of these generations have changed the dynamics of the workforce.
Although there is no consensus of the exact birth dates that define each generation, they are generally broken into these distinct groups:
Traditionalists are hardworking and loyal. Raised during the Depression, they cherish their jobs and are hard workers. Many Traditionalists have worked for only one employer their entire work life and are extremely loyal to coworkers and employers. Traditionalists are great team players and get along well with others in the workplace. They are less tech-savvy, the best way to engage this generation is through face-to-face interaction.
Baby Boomers are members of the Post-War War II generation. They are loyal, work-centric and cynical. They often equate salaries, high billables and long hours with success and commitment to the workplace. They value face time in the office and may not welcome work flexibility or work/life balance trends. High levels of responsibility, perks, praise, and challenges will motivate this generation.
Generation X entered the workplace with different work ethic and culture than previous generations. After witnessing the burnout or layoff of their hardworking parents, this gen places a premium on family time and has a different attitude about work. They are ambitious and hardworking but value work/life balance. They also have an entrepreneurial spirit. This generation thrives on diversity, challenge, responsibility and creative input. Flexible hours and challenging assignments will motivate this generation.
Generation Y (also known as the Millennials) is smart, creative, optimistic, achievement-oriented and tech-savvy. This young generation seeks out creative challenges, personal growth, and meaningful careers. They seek supervisors and mentors who are highly engaged in their professional development. They are also excellent multi-taskers and prefer communications through e-mail and text messaging over face-to-face interaction. Their attitude is “don’t waste my time making me come to your office.
Generation Z or Centennials believe in openness , resilience (through hard work and grit), and realism (grounded expectations). What that means concretely for workplaces, remains to be seen. Demographically, this is one diverse group. They’ve grown up in pluralist, multicultural societies that value diversity and the freedom of expression. They are however more risk averse, seemingly less appreciative of conformity, and less “in it for the fun” than their millennial counterparts. They are generally more risk-averse in certain activities than earlier generations. Maybe the stakes feel higher now.
In the war for talent, companies have to compete not just with their industrial rivals but also with the entrepreneurial aspirations and need for flexibility of their employees. Organizations that get this are changing their focus from trying to hire and retain everyone in similar full-time permanent roles. They are moving instead towards a menu of engagement options for top talent. This is especially true for the highly sought-after digital talent.
The most important thing in a multi-generational workplace is to make sure that every generation is valued. Up until now, companies have asked employees to adjust to the corporate culture, but the shift now is towards encouraging corporate cultures to “open up to being inclusive” and allow the uniqueness of each generation and the individual to influence the company culture.
Achieving cognitive diversity through a multigenerational team enables workers to ask better questions, be more effective, and deliver improved experiences for employees and customers of all ages. For organizations, having different generations in the workforce means having access to the best of multiple worlds. Finding ways to harness the experience, enthusiasm and unique strengths of each generation can pay huge dividends. Yes, diversity of thought spurs innovation and one of the most valued forms of cognitive diversity in today’s changeable world can be found in a multigenerational workplace.
Here, are 5 tips to Managing Multiple Generations
Recognize the benefit of flexible work hours for all life stages.
About the author – Shashwati is a Diversity & Inclusion champion at GiftAbled. She is annoyingly enthusiastic about environmental issues and loves her food and water.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org