Generational Divides In The Workplace

Working alongside those of different views and backgrounds is often beneficial to business. When varying ethics, values and experiences are all brought to the table, it can lead to a better, more adapted output. Such innovative end results can be attributed to the amalgamation of the generations. Known for having differing perspectives and standpoints regarding work, these distinct age groups can be brought together despite the generational division between them.

In today’s workforce, there are typically five separate generations laboring side by side. From Baby Boomers close to retirement to Gen Zers fresh out of college, these age groups have been shaped by the world around them and its changes during their lifetimes. As a result, there have been some major shifts in the workplace. These changes mainly circle around learning, leadership and workplace culture. Below is a look into each generation and how companies can better harness a multi-generational workforce dynamic.

Breaking Down the Generations

To start, it’s important to note that the timeframe a person is born into doesn’t dictate how he or she acts or feels. We are all individuals shaped by our own life experiences, education levels, work styles and feelings towards authority. That being said, certain trends are seen group-by-group regarding such characteristics. 

For instance, traditionalists are typically motivated by providing long-term value to an organization. This differs greatly from younger generations, who seem to move from one company to the next fairly quickly in comparison. Also known as the Silent Generation, this age group makes up the smallest percentage of current workers but still has expertise and mentorship to offer.

The generation after them are the Baby Boomers. Born between 1946 and 1964, these individuals are motivated by professional development and prefer organizations that provide structure, specific goals and opportunities to give feedback. They also prioritize work more, going the extra mile and showing strong loyalty to the team. Many Boomers translate a successful career into self-worth.

Members of Gen X follow their predecessors in some of these regards; however, they tend to be more motivated by a healthier work-life balance. Born between 1965 and 1980, the “Forgotten Generation,” as they are often called, put their own interests before the company’s yet are loyal, have a flexible work style and are more likely to perceive their career as just one part of who they are, not a defining aspect. 

Gen Y, more commonly known as millennials, also prioritize a work-life balance and are loyal to colleagues and leaders, but only if they are high-quality. This generation has challenged a lot of workplace rules, brought diversity to the forefront and offers a very fluid working style. Born near the end of the century – 1981 to 1995 – millennials make up the majority of the global workforce, with many in leadership positions striving towards balanced rules and equality.

Lastly, just breaking into the workforce is Gen Z. While working style and motivational drivers are still being determined, this generation has already demonstrated strong career investment, a preference for personalized experiences and a desire to work creatively. Going forward, we’ll likely see further developments in work-life balance and workplace equality as this most diverse group graduates and hits the job market.

How To Enhance the Multi-Generational Workforce Dynamic Today

There are several actionable steps companies can take to boost engagement and meet expectations for all generations. The first is to gain a greater understanding of personnel and to treat them as individuals. A main contributing factor in accomplishing this is to create an environment open to the sharing of ideas and opinions. That way, feedback can be gathered, and the input gained might be used to shape policies to be more in line with those who follow them.

As policies and company culture evolve, it’s also advised to incorporate methods to better support employee wellness and resilience. If the Great Resignation has shown us anything, it’s that companies must put more energy towards curating a culture that promotes retention and provides employees of all ages with development opportunities and purposeful direction. 

For additional strategies for a successful dynamic between the generations, please see the accompanying resource.

Author bio: Goodwill Car Donations is a national organization that accepts vehicle donations. It is committed to providing disadvantaged individuals with job training, employment services and critical community-building support. 

Generational Divides In The Workplace

More From The Workplace