Multiple Generations. One Workplace.
Updated: Apr 27
Today, there is a strong focus from managers and HR teams on figuring out how to best interact with their employees. But with ~five generations interacting at work today, sometimes negative stereotypes can make working together complicated. In this article, we provide a very quick summary of each generation (including the general stereotypes that belong to them), as well as some key points on how to work with individuals from any generation.
Veterans, born between ~1922 and ~1943, experienced the effects of the Great Depression and World War II. They are known for their hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. They are driven by the need for security, accept hierarchical organizations, and are good at following structure.
Baby Boomers were born between ~1944 and ~1960. Influenced by their veteran parents, they are known for their hard work. The number of both the Veterans and Baby Boomers in the workforce are declining as they retire.
Generation X was born between ~1961 and ~1980. From walking to school by themselves at a young age to unsupervised afternoons watching MTV and sitcoms, Generation X grew up independent. They are more self-reliant in their careers as well.
Millennials (Generation Y), born between ~1981 and ~1996, never really knew a time where technology didn’t exist. They value innovation. They are hopeful and determined that they are going to change the world. They are now the biggest generation in the workforce, making up ~35% of the workers. Given their growing importance in the workforce, we wrote another article to discuss Millennials in the Workplace.
Generation Z was born after ~1996, and they are starting to trickle into the workforce. They are tech savvy and eager to work!
With the plethora of news articles, surveys, and studies emphasizing the differences between these generations, organizations are scrambling to figure out how to manage their multi-generational workforce. But are we focusing too much on generational differences? Shouldn't we focus more on the individual? After all, hard working employees and lazy workers are found in every generation. To manage effectively, we have to realize that people are different, not just because they belong in different generations, but because they are individuals with unique experiences and life lessons regardless of which generation they are in. Here are 3 important things to keep in mind when you work with your multi-generational workforce.
#1. Let go of negative stereotypes
Stop thinking about how Baby Boomers are always grumpy and Millennials are lazy. Minimize the generation gap by focusing on individuals. Work with individuals and help them set career goals (check out our career planning path template), identify strengths, work on weaknesses, and identify best ways to collaborate.
#2. Look for commonalities
Encourage people to find and embrace the things that they share. You might be surprised at the number of things Baby Boomers and Millennials have in common. Make opportunities to help your teams interact with “diverse” coworkers. Schedule team lunches. Take a new colleague to lunch. There are numerous ways to get to know your coworkers.
#3. Avoid a one-size-fits-all managerial approach
Evaluate employees by their actions and performance, not by the generation they belong in. Regardless of generation, people will have different strengths, weaknesses, career goals, etc. Focus on how you can support and develop your employees. Do some employees want more feedback? If yes, then set up more frequent meetings with these employees. Are there workers that are less engaged than others? If so, help them set professional and personal goals to keep them engaged. Bottom line: People are different. To optimize your team performance, your managing style will need to vary between employees - not generations.
Remember that differences between individuals is much more significant than differences between generations. So focus on the individual, not the year they were born.
Having any more tips to help break down the generational stereotypes? Let us know!