In the modern-day workplace, understanding the needs and wants of different generations is becoming increasingly important. With five generations currently working together, businesses must find ways to bridge the generational gap that exists to ensure their teams are balanced and productive.
The workforce is currently made up of traditionalists, boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers. Each generation has its own unique values, perspectives, and skills – which can make it difficult for managers to create a cohesive team. However, by understanding each generation’s strengths and weaknesses, leaders can foster an environment that encourages collaboration and communication – a priority, as balancing different generations is important for businesses to thrive in today’s ever-changing environment.
Generational Work DNAs
We know that each generation is notoriously different in its work DNA and work-life philosophies. Research has shown that older generations abide by the following equation: hard work → success → happiness. While younger generations no longer see eye to eye with this ideology and instead follow this rearranged structure: happiness → success → hard work. However, when looking at each group individually, it becomes more complex than that.
Let’s take a closer look at the traits and beliefs that mark each generation in the workplace – through the lens of expert Dr. Bea Bourne, also a faculty member at Purdue University Global.
Traditionalists, those born between 1925 and 1945, make up the smallest percentage of the workforce today. However, these individuals still take part in the workforce and have shaped how many companies operate. According to research by Purdue, they are dependable, straightforward, and loyal. Employers should provide stability and long-term projects that are satisfying for the individual.
Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are known for their work ethic, dedication, and team-oriented personalities. They view job security and advancement as important, enjoy traditional work environments, and often prefer face-to-face communication. For them to thrive, employers must provide specific goals/deadlines and give them the opportunity to mentor others.
Generation X, those born between 1965 and 1980, are independent, more informal, and resourceful. The dot-com boom shaped this group, and diversity and work-life balance are their driving forces. They are more likely to take risks and accept change than their predecessors. They prefer flexible work environments and enjoy using technology to communicate while still enjoying face-to-face interactions.
Millennials, those born between 1981 and 2000, are tech-savvy, ambitious, and socially conscious. They embrace change, seek immediate feedback, value collaboration, and are the largest group in today’s workforce. They prefer flexible work environments and value recognition. When it comes to their life at work, they place great emphasis on the quality of their managers and the uniqueness of the opportunities offered by the company they work for.
Generation Z, those born between 2001 and 2020, are progressive and entrepreneurial. They prefer to work independently, but they also recognize the value of teamwork. Recognition, diversity, and personalization are powerful motivators for them. This group places great importance on work-life balance and flexibility in their work arrangements. They are also highly tech-savvy and prioritize using technology to streamline their work processes and improve efficiency.
The takeaway is that leaders must be flexible to meet each individual’s needs. In the workplace of today, it is important for companies to create an environment with flexible hours, mentorship programs, and training opportunities that allow people of different ages to learn from each other. Additionally, managers should strive to create a culture of respect and understanding where all generations feel valued and heard.
Creating An Environment That Prioritizes DE&I
Apart from balancing all five generations, it’s important to note that the overall racial and ethnic demographics of America have become more multi-ethnic and multi-racial, placing increased importance on having strong DE&I initiatives.
According to Deloitte, workers who are satisfied with their employers’ efforts to create a diverse and inclusive environment, are more likely to want to stay with their employers for more than five years. Furthermore, a 2019 McKinsey & Company study found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 33% more likely to have higher-than-average financial returns.
Organizational success is dependent on how well we balance our people and our willingness to establish company culture and protocols that pertain to all. Effective DE&I initiatives not only promote a more inclusive workplace but also have the potential to positively impact a company’s financial performance and employee retention. It is crucial for organizations to recognize the importance of DE&I and take proactive steps towards creating a diverse and equitable workplace.
Navigating the Rapidly Changing Dynamics of the Workplace
The shifting dynamics of the world, from DE&I to hybrid work, remote work, four-day work weeks, unlimited vacations, etc., are changing how corporations operate every day. The fact is, we’re living through the most rapid technological work evolution in history.
Balancing different generations in the workplace is an opportunity. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each generation and creating an environment that encourages collaboration, businesses can foster a productive and successful workplace. As the workplace continues to evolve, it is crucial for companies to ensure that all employees feel valued and supported. By embracing these changes and adapting to new ways of working, businesses can attract top talent and stay competitive in a rapidly changing world.
Robert Graham is the Chief Executive Officer for Poll Everywhere. Prior to his role as CEO, he spent over seven years with Poll Everywhere working his way up from Engineering Growth to Chief Revenue Officer, managing teams devoted to the strategic growth of SaaS within the company. He is a Georgia Tech Computer Science alum.