As technology advances, people are living longer than ever before. It’s a wonderful thing, but it also means we’re seeing a workplace phenomenon that’s unparalleled by any other point in time. It’s known as the five generation workplace (five? Yes, five!).
Here’s a breakdown of each group:
The Traditionalists: The traditionalists were born before 1943, and are the smallest group making up just over 10% of our workforce. They have a deep respect for rules and conformity, and generally tend to be financially frugal. Many didn’t grow up with basic electronics, let alone mobile devices and computers.
The Baby Boomers: The Boomers were born from 1944-1960. They are the workforce group most known for being “workaholics”. They’re optimistic and work well on teams yet prefer to be seen rather than heard.
Generation X: Born between 1961 and 1980, this workforce group grew up being “latchkey kids” while both parents were off at work. They’re realists, results-oriented, and are often entrepreneurs.
Generation Y: Gen Y members, also known as millennials, were born from 1981-1995. This generation currently makes up the largest percentage of the workforce, right around 28%. They’re tech-savvy and socially conscious, confident and competitive.
Generation Z: The youngest generation, born after 1995, is just beginning to enter the workforce with their first jobs and internships. They’ve never lived in a world without internet, and they’re the most tolerant of alternative lifestyles and socially liberal causes.
So, five distinct groups, each with its own ideologies. What does this mean for management and HR? It means that managers need to be keenly aware of each group and where employees fall within them, and be able to tailor management styles accordingly.
A Traditionalist, for example, won’t be motivated by the same values and rewards as a member of Generation Y. Similarly, while a Boomer might feel disrespected by a Gen Z-er’s forthcoming and competitive attitude in the workplace, the Gen Z-er might feel equally disrespected by the Boomer’s refusal to accept new ways of thinking. Sharing perceptions and having an open and honest dialogue among employees is a great way to combat this.
Most importantly, remember that each generation has something to learn from and something to teach the other workplace groups. Managers will be most successful when they recognize and celebrate each group’s distinctions rather than attempting to lump them all into one homogenous workforce.