Historically speaking, the typical workplace has consisted of three main age groups – the Old Timers, the Youngsters, and the people stuck in between them. Today though, that mix has gotten a lot more complicated. For the first time ever, it is commonplace to find 5 generations working side by side.
As an employer or manager, are you up to the challenges of keeping your workforce happy and productive across that many age groups?
Taking a look at the traits of each generation
Traditionals This group was born before 1945 – making them 70 years old or older. This group saw the Great Depression and World War II during their early years. Because of this, they tend to be very loyal and dependable. They have a great work ethic, and come from a generation before technology changed communication, so they typically have great interpersonal communication skills.
Baby Boomers They were born between 1946 and 1964, so they are between 51 and 69 years old. This Woodstock Generation was influenced by the Vietnam War, the 60’s era, and the changes that came after the war ended. They tend to be better educated, prefer autonomy in their assignments, and work well in teams.
Generation X The Latchkey Generation was born between 1965 and 1980, making them 35 to 50 years old. They come from a generation that saw heavy divorce rates. This give them an appreciation for family, while making them more independent and socially responsible.
Generation Y Born between 1981 and 1995, these 20 to 34-year-olds are the Entitled Generation. They are the children of the Baby Boomers and Generation X and share traits from both, but heavily influenced by the rise in technology as well. They tend to be tech-savvy and strive for the work-life balance more than other generations before them.
Linksters Being born after 1995, and under 20 years old, they are often referred to as the “The Facebook Crowd.” They are a socially conscious generation that thrives well on tolerance and relies heavily on technology. This generation can’t remember a time without the internet, and are used to having information at their fingertips.
Take advantage of the challenges and opportunities
With such a diverse workforce, you have a lot of opportunities as well as a lot of challenges. Your employees represent a wide range of worth ethics, ideologies, and skill sets. So it’s important to understand their strengths and weaknesses so you can adapt your management style to get the best results and provide a productive work environment.
For example, a lot of conflicts are rooted in generational factors. Boomers and Traditionals typically don’t like to be micromanaged, where Gen Y and Linksters want specific, detailed instructions and don’t mind you being a hover-manager. Whether they work well as a team or prefer solo assignments can be affected by their generational values as well. Gen X likes to work solo, while Boomers like teamwork.
All of the generations can learn from each other though, so it’s your job to make sure that you’re encouraging appropriate communication. When a member of one generation has a conflict with someone in a different generation, make sure they understand that this could be a cause and that it could be a simple misunderstanding. Have both parties communicate their viewpoint on the issues in a calm, and patient way.
You will also begin to see the strengths and knowledge each generation brings to the table and learn how to make the most of it. For example: Traditionals and Boomers have the experience and knowledge that can only be gained with time in the workforce in their fields. Gen X employees typically possess exceptional skills in fairness and mediation. Gen Y are the first generation of tech wizards and are usually pretty good at bridging the gap between the non-tech generations and the Linksters that grew up with technology. The Linksters are naturals when it comes to change and innovation. They won’t hesitate to suggest changes that could revolutionize your company.
So learn from all of them and utilize their strengths and you could see major changes in your company as well as a happy and productive workforce as you learn the tricks behind managing five generations at work.