The workplace generation game
Those who remember the iconic gameshow ‘The Generation Game’ know it showed different generations of family working together, to win prizes. The workplace is no different. With the multigenerational makeup of many workforces, employers can benefit hugely when they harness talents of each generation, having them working collaboratively for a common goal.
We’ve seen how society and the way we work have changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Change and diversity have brought many benefits to the workplace because it reflects the UK as a whole. Having employees from a variety of backgrounds and age groups can truly help your business thrive.
Five generations working together
For the first time in modern history, we have five generations working side by side, but what are these different generations and why do you need to be aware of them?
Each generation is significant in terms of behaviours, what motivates them and how each one can benefit your workplace. Understanding this will help you answer the following questions:
- How should I relate to employees of different age groups?
- How do I motivate someone much older or much younger than me?
- What can I do to encourage employees of different generations to share their knowledge?
Let’s look at each generation and what makes them tick.
Changes in employment law mean employees have choice in when they retire or if they wish to continue working. This has meant people born before 1946 can and are, still active in the workplace.
Whilst not the most significant in terms of numbers perhaps, they have valuable skills and knowledge: years of experience; positive attitudes; a strong work ethic and empathy with customers to name just a few, which can be passed on to younger colleagues.
Building collaborative relationships with this generation can bring benefits to any business. Make them a business champion and ask their opinion for a different and valuable perspective.
Baby Boomers or ‘Boomers’
This generation were born between 1946 and 1964. Boomers are now in their early fifties and can bring experience and credibility to your workforce.
Boomers bring skills in face-to-face communication. Younger generations can prefer sending an email or instant message to their colleagues, whereas Boomers prefer to really use their interpersonal skills. The power of this skill can’t be underestimated with customers and colleagues alike.
Boomers who are still working need information and help transitioning to retirement. They care about their job, it’s a proxy for their self-worth, so they really value and respond to employer messaging reflecting a personal and even parental approach.
Generation X are those born between 1965 and 1980, so the youngest of this generation would be in their early 40’s.
Generally, these employees would be in management roles and according to Huffington Post; ‘The closer these workers get to 55 the more their knowledge becomes invaluable to your organization and to your customers. They are your intellectual capital.’
This generation created the work/life balance concept and value flexible working patterns. They are tech enabled rather than tech-savvy so value a certain amount of detail and online tools when it comes to information and respond well to any and all forms of communication.
Probably the most talked about group at the moment. Millennials were born between 1981 and 2000, they’ve grown up through a time of huge technological advances and as Forbes explains ‘Millennials have grown up in an era where the number of resources they have is almost infinite, making them more efficient problem solvers and critical thinkers’.
Millennials are also concerned around how they develop and progress. They don’t want to stay still and really value feedback. This means they want to be truly engaged with their role and with your business, which can only be a good thing.
Whereas Generation X would like flexible working patterns, Millennials expect it. They’re constantly balancing friends, family, work, hobbies and a million other things, and want flexibility and life away from work.
Millennials have grown up with technology and can be seen as the most connected group – they can network their way to another job if their needs are not met. They look for structure, goals and challenges. They like to be heard and consulted, so get these employees involved with committees and being champions for causes within your workplace.
And finally we have Generation Z. Born after 2000, they’re the new comers to the workforce and haven’t lived without the internet. Anything they have ever wanted to find out has been a couple of clicks away and their confidence and skill across social media platforms, exceed those of older generations.
Generation Z understands the power of technology to help them be productive and they don’t want to be confined to the traditional 9 to 5 job. So again, flexibility is key for this group in terms of role structure and working pattern. Because tech is so integral to their lives, employers offering up-to-date tools/equipment plus a fastpaced environment, are more likely to attract this group than a bonus package. If they are passionate, they’re engaged.
Generation Z are constantly ‘plugged in’ to smartphones, instant messages – any form of digital communication and device, so these are the best ways to communicate and engage them about your business or their workplace pension.
Getting the message right
Each and every one of these employee groups can bring a wealth of different skills, traits and characteristics to your work force. And it’s when these differing individuals come together, that more ideas are exchanged and your business can truly thrive.
Getting your message across to these groups of employees just takes some thought. Like any message, think about your audience and what the message means for them.
By making your message available in multiple formats, you’ll reach more of your employees, in the way that suits them. Traditional and Baby Boomers may like verbal communication while the rest may respond better to digital media.
Transferring experience and knowledge
As we’ve seen, different generational groups of employees can have different attitudes to work but all have experience and perspective that employers need to capitalise on. To provide a workplace where age diversity is embraced to potentially boost cohesion and productivity, could any of these tips benefit your team and workplace?
- Transference of skills. Look at the generations and experience they have. Put in place
programmes to get those skills from your older employees, to the younger ones and conversely,
empower your younger employees to upskill, say with tech, their older colleagues.
- Listen and learn. Rather than talking at your people, listen too. Have members from each
generation working on a project to maximise skills and learning. Create employee forums to
give your company perspective and employees the opportunity to be heard and participate.
- Flexibility. This can mean different things to different people. As more people retire later in
life, some may want more time off rather than increased pay and benefits. Younger people
value more flexibility in their careers, so look to offer secondments to learn new skill sets.
Older people may want to take time off for further education, or to travel.
With the variety of five generations of employee in today’s workplace, companies can benefit hugely by embracing diversity along with an enlightened approach of leadership and a flexible work environment, which values all people, keeping them engaged and productive, regardless of age.