An “era” is defined as a period of time marked by distinctive character, events, etc. I believe right now we are ushering in a unique and challenging era in corporate America. For the first time in history, employers are struggling to balance the different needs and working styles of four different generations in the workforce. If working with teams did not have enough challenges when the workforce was comprised of all Baby Boomers, try and get your arms around getting things done with FOUR generations! Leaders and team members alike need to understand the distinctive challenges with such a powerful dynamic and how to maximize productivity in a generationally diverse workforce. Employees, though diversified, are still a product of their generation and generally have a set of convictions about work habits such as collaborating, communication, accountability and rewards, productivity and decision making. In future articles we will dig deeper into the impact of each generation on team dynamics but want to introduce each of the generations today
- Traditionalist — (born before World War II. Also called the Silent Generation)
Basic Characteristics: Typically Punctual, sharply dressed and often conservative and believe that hard work has its own reward. More comfortable in a command-and-control structured hierarchy.
- Baby Boomer — (born post-World War II, roughly the 40’s and 50’s)
Basic Characteristics: Marked by a high level of idealism and willingness to question authority. Instead of chain-of-command, they believe in a change-in-command. They are motivated by prestige and position.
- Generation X — (born 1960’s-70’s. Also called Gen X’ers, the Lost Generation or The Baby Bust Generation)
Basic Characteristics: Typically more collaborative, less hierarchical, good at dealing with change. They strive for a balance between work and private life. Technologically and financially savvy.
- Generation Y — (born during the 80’s and 90’s. Also called Nexters, Millennials)
Basic Characteristics: Weaned on participation, not command. Have an appreciation for diversity and empowerment and like immediate and frequent feedback. They like to dress more casually but have grown up with access to technology and have integrated it into every fabric of their life.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that when you have such a wide-range of ages/generations working together side-by-side in the workplace that there are going to be challenges. The goals of this series of articles are twofold:
- As with any diversity effort, the key to building bridges between people with different worldviews is to better understand their perspectives. We want to help educate you, within a business context, so that you will better see things through other “generational” eyes.
- What are some things you can do in the workplace to encourage communication, mutual respect and productive relationships? We want to explore with you some practical ways others have successfully used in bridging this gap.