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Overcoming Age: The Multi-generational Workforce, Part 1

More now than ever, there exists a great diversity in the workplace.

More retirement-age people are continuing to work, which means the workplace demographic is now spanning up to five generations: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (or Millennials), and a modicum of Generation Z. This means that a 20-year-old new hire could find him/herself working next to an individual who is fifty plus years older.

How has this changed the workplace dynamics?

These workplace transformations can produce great opportunity but can also present great challenges. Of companies polled, 58% of their managers said they were experiencing conflict between older and younger employees (Iden, 2016). Yet, less than one third of organizations report having an HR strategy in place for managing their aging workforce (Kirton, 2014).

In order to keep a cohesive work environment, it is imperative that company and organizational leaders set an example of bridging the gap between the different generations’ communication styles, values, attitudes, behaviors, expectations, workstyles and priorities.

The differences across the age groups are created through their collective experiences, including shared news, music, mood, education, and parenting styles (Murphy, 2007). The five generations span years between 1928 and current day:

  • Silent Generation/Traditionalists: Born approximately between 1928 and 1945

  • Baby Boomers: Born approximately between 1946 and 1964

  • Generation X: Born approximately between 1965 and 1979

  • Generation Y (Millennials): Born approximately between 1980 and 1995

  • Generation Z: Born approximately starting in 1996 (The HR Specialist, 2014)

Consider some of the experiences that have marked generations: Traditionalists experienced WWII and were raised by parents who went through the Depression; Baby Boomers experienced the moon landing, the civil rights movement, President Kennedy’s assassination, Vietnam, Woodstock, and the women’s liberation movement; Generation X experienced energy crisis, Watergate, Three Mile Island, the AIDs epidemic, Chernobyl, and the fall of the Berlin Wall; at a young impresionable age Generation Y were impacted by the Oklahoma City bombing, the Columbine shootings, 9/11, Enron, and Hurricane Katrina; Generation Z grew up in the “Great Recession” -- and in some cases, witnessed the impact of long-term unemployment on parents and relatives and have also seen the cost of higher education rising, along with an explosion in student loan debt.

There are huge impacts caused by each set of experiences that form and shape how the participants and observers of each generation develop. As we explore those influences, one must be careful to not overlook individual differences. There are likely to be differences between a 25 year old and a 65-year-old because of the culture and generation in which he/she was raised. However, one must be careful not to judge based on stereotypes that may or may not apply to the individual. Careful consideration of each employee’s strengths, driving forces, competencies and emotional intelligence can bypass an unfortunate situation with an employee. After said considerations have been accounted for, then it would behoove an employer to further explore the influences of the generation from which the employee has come.

If you have not yet assessed your employee’s behavioral style, motivators/driving forces, and emotional intelligence, we would love to help. If you have, then you will be interested in the upcoming blog posts regarding practical information and best case practices for employers working in a multigenerational setting, and keep your eyes open: We will be sending out information regarding a “Lunch and Learn” open to the public for a small fee, and free to current consulting clients.

Bursch. (2014). development/managing-the-multigenerational-workplace-white-paper.pdf

Iden, R.L (2016). Strategies for Managing a Multigenerational Workplace.

Kirton, H. (24 March 2014).

Murphy, S. (2007). Leading a Multigenerational Workforce. . Washington, D.C.: AARP.

The HR Specialist (14 February 2014). take-lead-in-workplace#_

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