Working with Generational Differences

It’s safe to say that organizations and individuals are adapting to the constantly changing workforce. Although drastic changes for one generation cannot be the norm, there are things to consider when asking multi-generational, multi-cultural teams to work together. The workforce today is drastically different than 50 years ago. Technology allows us to connect faster, globalization of companies has taken off in droves and constantly changing organization goals has created a new culture that many Generation Y (Millennials) find exhilarating and challenging.

Let’s consider the differences between Generation Y (Millenialls) and the Generation X and Baby Boomers. This is not to assume that Generation X and Baby Boomers operate the same, but the focus on work tends to be similar. A quick glance at the various workplace buckets would include: Motivators, Work/Life Balance, Engagement and Technology. Focusing on the variance of teams with multiple  generational differences, any manager should take into consideration the differences we can know and understand within each.

The Baby Boomer and Generation X workforce has traditionally had a more work focused life than a true work/life balance. Putting work before vacations and often working while on vacation has caused this workforce to put emphasis on external motivators. These types of motivators include salary increases, annual bonuses, promotions and long term stock options. Organizations have capitalized on this type of workforce, ensuring that the work gets done, not matter the cost to the employee. Both of these generations have over time learned to gain some balance in this area, but there is still a lot of work to do.

The catch? The Millennials. This generational group puts emphasis on having meaningful positions immediately out of school. They want their opinions to be heard and want direct access to senior management. They will work to get the job done, but they will also demand their independence and vacation time. Maybe, just maybe, this generation will help bring real balance to the workforce and redefine personal time off and the balance of work and life.

Millennials will want to be part of the solution and will go and find the answer with others should they not fully understand the task. This group is diverse in their life experiences, beliefs and overall view of the world. They will challenge the work they don’t understand, but they will produce amazing results with the right leadership. Engaging them early in the process will help them to better understand the business and allow for new ideas to be engaged.

Technology is a big part of the Millennial lifestyle. Baby Boomers and Generation X have grown to leverage technology, understanding the importance of where work and personal interactions were before technology to where it is now. Boomers and Xers also understand the importance of face to face conversations and personalization of messaging. Millennials will need help in engaging in personal areas within the workplace. Although they like to work in teams and have connection to the outside world, they are used to communication through technology more than they are in traditional methods. Millennials will bring their personal phones to work and want to be socially engaged throughout the day. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social networking sites have become a lifeline of sorts for this generation that is constantly connected.

The answer here? Each organization needs to learn to adapt to the markets they serve and each manager needs to be prepared for the variances of leading a team of individuals from diverse backgrounds and needs. This has always been the challenge for organizations and managers, but now the emphasis goes to engaging not only the markets they serve, but the employees they employ.

Do you have suggestions on ways your organization or management teams have engaged all generational needs in the workforce?


Brooke Page-Thompson

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