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How to Manage the 5 Generations of the Workplace

Workplaces are ever-evolving environments. With the gradual introduction of Generation Z into the workforce, there are going to be plenty of companies who are going to count members from all 5 current generational groups under one roof.

But how do you manage them all collectively? How can you ensure you retain the wisdom of the Silent generation, while attracting the best talent Gen Z has to offer?

But before delving into that, let’s define each generational grouping.

What Are The 5 Generations in the Workplace?

Most workplaces are multi-generational. Each generation has its own set of strengths and weaknesses that are often complemented by working with members belonging to a different generation. But clashes over methodologies and styles can lead to tension if not managed effectively.

There are 5 main generations that fit into the landscape of today’s workforce. They are as follows:

• Generation Z (1997–2012)
• Millennials (1981–1996)
• Generation X (1965–1980)
• Baby boomers (1946–1964)
• Silent generation (born between 1928 and 1945)

For organizations that have members of all 5 generations on their roster of employees, navigating the differences between values can be delicate. Therefore, it makes sense to understand the outlook of each and adapt accordingly.

Starting with Generation Z.

1. Generation Z

Otherwise known as the “digital generation”; these individuals are increasingly entering the workplace. They will account for over 30% of the labor force by 2030 according the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

They will undoubtedly search for their ideal job online, and assess companies based on their online presence. Student debt is an increasing concern, which is why many of this generation prioritize salary over over benefits; in direct contrast to their elder Millennials.

Providing access to cutting-edge technology is a must, and they value job-security after witnessing the effect the 2008 financial crash had on their parents. In terms of managing, these employees prefer a collaborative approach; with an emphasis on developing a common mission. This generation values continuous learning and development, as well as the ability to work flexibly, which can be made possible through digital apps and software.

2. Millennials

On the cusp of becoming the largest generation within the workforce, nearly a third of Millennials hold some form of management position within a company. 48% of those positions are at director-level or higher.

A large majority of them spent their early years without the internet or smartphones. However, they have adapted to new technology much quicker than any of their preceding generations and prefer online communication to inter-personal as they see it as more efficient.

This particular generation has a thirst for leadership training, skills development, and a clearly-laid-out career progression path. Above all, Millennials want to tangibly feel like they are serving a deeper purpose. Management teams must relay how their role impacts people’s lives and how it makes the world a better place to keep them engaged.

In terms of motivation and reward structures, Millennials are firm believers in meritocracy. They believe individuals shouldn’t be judged on how many hours they’ve worked or how long they’ve been an employee at a company. Instead they believe employees should be evaluated on the quality and results of their performance.

Lastly, they tend to value their benefits just as much as their salary; and it’s not rare for them to be more interested in the former than the latter.

3. Generation X

Filling the gap between the Millennials and baby boomers, Gen Xers have overseen the onset of rapid technological advances. Seen by many of the “best of both worlds” most of Generation X are just as happy to pick up the phone or have face-to-face conversations as they are using email.

This generation prefer an individual emphasis rather than focusing on a deeper overall mission, and value autonomy so that they can get on with the tasks at hand. With regards to benefits, flexible working schedules help Gen Xers deal with family life since a large proportion of them are parents.

For similar reasons, they also value healthcare and retirement benefits more than both Millennials and Generation Z.

4. Baby Boomers

Born in the aftermath of the Second World War, baby boomers are known for their hard-nosed attitude and strong work ethic. Even though they are retiring at a rate of 10,000 employees per day, they still have an important role in today’s workforce. What’s more, the financial crash of 2008 has decimated the retirement pots of many, forcing them to work longer.

Within the workplace, they value inter-personal communication and only use the technology they need to perform their role. They are motivated differently to their younger peers, preferring public recognition or physical awards that they can bring home and show their family. They preferred structured environments and routine face-to-face meetings.

They aren’t looking to move jobs at this stage of their career, so providing them assurances about their role with help to allay any job-security fears they may have. Benefits relating to retirement are unsurprisingly top of the list for this generation followed closely by healthcare.

5. Silent Generation

The oldest and least prevalent of the workforce generations, these employees are hard workers who have already overcome a lot of adversity during their careers. They are not accustomed to the technology that many other generations take for granted, and so special accommodations are likely to be required.

They value fairness, and expect to be paid a fair price for the experience they bring to a position. Much like their younger baby boomer neighbors, they value inter-personal contact, and appreciate managers that ask them to share their wisdom with younger, less-experienced colleagues.

Helping keep these knowledgeable employees around can be achieved with flexible working arrangements such as semi-retirement. Much like baby boomers, they value health and retirement benefits as they approach the final days of their career.

Bridging Generational Gaps in the Workplace

Having multiple generations serving your company can be extremely advantageous. It’s common for them to bounce off each other in a positive manner. Younger generations can learn the inter-personal skills required for success from their older peers, whilst older generations can be guided through beneficial technology by younger colleagues.

In terms of the working environment, younger generations prefer digital communication, whereas older employees prefer telephone and face-to-face interaction, so it’s wise to make accommodations for both. Furthermore, older employees appreciate their knowledge being tapped. Which is why incorporating their wisdom into the training and development that younger generations crave is a great idea.

Companies should also be looking to tailor their benefits packages to employees, as a one-size-fits-all approach is no longer fit for purpose. Generation Z appreciate student debt assistance and continued professional development, whereas Generation X are much more focused on healthcare benefits and on-site daycare facilities. That being said, it appears all generations warm to the idea of flexible working arrangements; albeit for different reasons.

Whichever you decide, adapting to the needs of your workforce is critical in the quest to both attract and retain the top talent from each generational pool.

If you need expert advice on creating packages that appeal to your desired audience, or you need help narrowing down what you are looking for, don’t hesitate to contact the Offer Accept team. We’re always on hand to provide solutions to your recruiting problems, with a huge pool of pre-vetted candidates ready to made a real difference to your business today!

Farley Ashby
Founder, Offer Accept
Recruiting Expert