Today’s workforce is more generationally diverse than ever before. For the first time ever, four generations are working together side-by-side.
Some companies view a multigenerational workforce as negative and worry about conflict in the workplace, while other companies see generational diversity as a competitive advantage, bringing together a wide range of ideas and knowledge.
This article focuses on the misconceptions of having a multi-generational workforce and the ways companies can leverage the unique qualities of each generation to boost their bottom line and grow their company.
Generations in the Workforce
Here’s how the generations are defined according to Pew Research Center:
- Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)
- Generation X (Gen X) born 1965-1980
- Millennials born 1981-1996
- Generation Z – born 1997-2002
While some baby boomers are approaching retirement, generation X and millennials are taking up a good chunk of today’s workforce.
When it comes to recruiting top talent, millennials often get the most attention and focus since they currently make up a significant portion of the workforce with Gen Z slowly creeping behind and starting to enter the workforce. Millennials currently account for the largest percentage (35%) of the U.S. workforce and are expected to make up over 50% by 2020.
Today’s employers view Millennials as highly motivated individuals bringing a new fresh approach and companies and place a strong emphasis in recruiting this generation at the expense of the Baby Boomers and Generation X.
Companies also feel the need to change the internal workings of the company to meet the needs of millennials including adopting new technologies and tools.
While Millennials, and now Gen Z, do bring unique qualities to the workplace, each individual employee brings their own special skills, regardless of generation. Older generations who are considered more “seasoned”, have acquired knowledge and skills other generations haven’t had time to develop.
A workforce heavily composed only of people in a particular age demographic runs the risk of becoming obsolete, which would stop any progress the company is making. Companies should remember to be inclusive to all generations and value knowledge, experience and skill above age. Generational differences and challenges are always going to exist in the workplace, but companies must make an effort to use the age diversity to their benefit.
How can companies use this to their advantage?
Most workers enjoy working in a multigenerational workplace. In a recent AARP poll, seven in ten workers said they like working with other generations and believe having both younger and older employees enhances the workplace.
A workplace with different age demographics creates a collaborative environment with each employee’s strengths focused on a common goal – the company’s success. With a multi-generational workforce, employees step out of their comfort zone and collaborate with colleagues from all stages of life.
It’s very difficult to learn something new from someone who shares similar views or thinks like you, which is why multi-generational mentorship programs can be very beneficial to workers of all ages. They have the opportunity to teach and learn from someone with a different perspective and different experiences.
Older generations can provide advice based on their many years in the workforce and younger workers, who are usually more comfortable with technology, can help older workers adapt to using new tools.
Each employee brings their own attitudes, motivations, experience and skills, However, generations are often victims of stereotypes and generalizations. Each generation is assumed to have certain characteristics, but there may be workers which don’t fit the mold and have other skills outside their demographic.
Some of the stereotypes include:
- Baby boomers are thought to bring a wealth of experience since they have been working for a very long time. They are often considered reliable and respected. On the other hand, since they are not as experienced in new technology as the generations after them, their years of experience may get overlooked.
- Generation X has been in the workforce for quite some time and make up a large percentage of today’s workforce. This generation is experienced, educated and can easily relate to the generations behind and before them. They grew up at the start of the computer-age so they have become accustomed and comfortable using new technology. On the flip, this generation is often looked at as negative and more “stuck in their ways.”
- Millennials grew up in the age of advanced technology, so they are known to be tech-savvy and very familiar with social media. They are great multitaskers, eager and open to learning new things, and care about personal and professional development. Aside from this, there’s also a stigma around millennials being lazy, entitled and lacking a strong work ethic.
- Generation Z is fresh out of college and excited to step into the workforce. They are full of new ideas and have a lot of determination and motivation since just entering the workforce. Though this new generation can bring fresh insight to a company, they may be looked down on for the simple fact that they’re still very young.
While all of these characteristics may or may not be true, there’s no saying that certain individuals fit the exact mold.
In order for companies to use generational diversity to their benefit, they need to break away from the stereotypes and leverage the collective experiences and strengths of each individual worker.
Recruit and Retain
By recruiting a diverse workforce, employers have access to a greater pool of candidates, improving the chances of finding the best person for the job. In a competitive marketplace, a company, which puts people first, has a distinct advantage.
When recruiting and hiring a multi-generational workforce, be careful not to use any terms or phrases geared toward one specific generation (i.e. “recent graduates”). Be honest about your workplace and culture, but be inviting and welcoming towards all generations. In order to retain different employees, you need to be considerate of their different skills and abilities.
Create a place where collaboration is encouraged, and different viewpoints and ideas are welcomed. Each employee should know their boundaries and should know they should not overstep even if they are “older” than another employee. Golden rule: “treat everyone the way you want to be treated.” Make sure this is a general rule your company follows.
When you understand a mutli-generational workforce can help drive your business to greater success, you will see each worker, regardless of generation, can bring something distinctive to your company. Companies need to be aware of the unique benefits a diverse workforce brings. They must look past the generational stereotypes and focus on the unique strengths each can bring to your company. In order to be successful, you need to be inclusive. e 7 Colorful