Five Generational Differences in the Workplace

generational differences in the workplace

Five Generational Differences in the Workplace

Today’s workplace is breaking down barriers and striving for community. However, we find that even in the workplace, we create biases and generalizations when working and managing a generationally diverse team. Within our current workforce, we find ourselves managing teams from three generation groups. In the past we would define the generation by a set of years, but it seems that our generational divide is more based on the period’s social, economic, and political influences.

Baby Boomers (born between 1945-1963)

They have been defined by society as the generation that was born after the WWII servicemen returned home. They are typically defined as workaholics and are very loyal to their employer. They prefer to work independently rather than in teams. They prefer communicating face-to-face over instant messaging or social media connections. They have experience and have learned tried-and-true processes that have been successful for them throughout the years. Lastly, they are family-oriented, as they are looking ahead at retirement and may be balancing their work drive with the needs of their family, whether that be elder care or college age children just starting out.

Gen Xers (born between 1964-1979)

They are the MTV generation when music videos killed the radio star. Growing up, they were latch-key kids in a household with both parents working, often coming home from school to an empty house. They tend to be more cynical and need proof before going in on a project or theory. This may be because of the political turmoil defining their generation. They are in the prime of their career and can seem focused on the bottom line. They prefer email communication, as they grew up in the dawn of the computer and word processing infancy.

Millennials (born between 1980 – 2012)

This group can be split into two groups Generation Y and Generation Z, but their true differences have not been established yet. The millennials are a collaborative group and prefer to work in an ‘open office’ atmosphere. They are tech savvy, as they have not seen a world without a smartphone. They prefer to communicate with texts and quick messages. They seek validation from mentors and people in their life as they make career decisions.

How to build a successful team between three generational divides

Your team members may be made up of baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials. Understanding the influences that make them thrive will help you guide your team to excel.  Even with the differences between the three groups, you can find three guiding commonalities. Everyone on your team desires fairness, needs to be challenged, and yearns for a sense of community.

Address Individual Needs

Play to your individual team members’ strengths and their needs to feel fulfilled personally and professionally. It is also important to know if a team member needs extra time to finish up their professional degree or to take care of a young child. Addressing the need and maintaining balance is what all your team members strive for, despite generational differences in the workplace.

Engage the older generation and utilize tech savvy generation

Your older generation wants to know that you still value their experience. It is just as important to acknowledge their tried and true experiences as it is important to listen to what potential your tech-savvy millennial can bring to the process. Make sure they all feel heard and utilized. Continuing education and training to help all parts of your team be more tech savvy is vital. You can create a cohesive group when all team members are speaking “the same language.”

Touch all age groups to innovate and motivate

Know that all members of your team need validation. Develop ways to let every part of your team feel that their contribution makes a difference to the overall product. This is more than Employee of the Month awards. Honor what your members bring to the overall process and understand that wisdom and skill can come from all team members.

Emphasize commonality

Make sure that your team knows that though they all come at a process from different angles, they have common goals. This commonality creates a strong bond and will allow all spokes in the wheel to know that they are building more than just a one-time project, but rather working together towards the same long-term goals.

Open up the office

By opening up the office and creating open work spaces, your whole team can feel like their generational differences are assets in the workplace. Instead of isolating, those differences are an integral part of the process. Opening up the office can create a flow of ideas and communication allowing face to face interaction and instant recognition of ideas. Along with open office space, take a look at your traditional office processes. This is more than just removing walls and creating cubicles. Opening up the office is thinking outside the normal standards. This can be integrating new work options, including telecommuting or eliminating a weekly meeting that is unproductive.

Check your own bias

You don’t want your team to hold biases about each other and it is just as important that you, as the manager, erase those ideas. As the manager of a generationally diverse team, you need to eliminate bias thinking. Comments like: “Kids, these days…,” “can’t teach an old dog a new trick…,” and “back in my day…” are going to close you off to the opportunities that each member of your workforce today brings to your business.

While it may be difficult, eliminating generational differences in the workplace is important to create a true community in your office. This will only make your employees value their work environment more and reward you in the long run. Need more ideas on eliminating generational differences in the workplace? Contact Karen Curione today.