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Successfully managing a multi-generational workforce

Baby boomers want respect, Generation X wants to be left alone, millennials want to be included.

Everyone is well aware that today’s workforce is a blend of three separate and distinct groups: Baby boomers, Generation X and millennials.

Speaking at a recent NationaLease meeting, Jeff Hiller, director of training at JB Training, pointed out that historically as each new generation enters the workforce there are concerns about their attitude and willingness to work and that each generation has key expectations from the workplace. In addition, each generation is influenced by societal and world events that occurred while they were growing up.

For example, baby boomers want to be respected and they expect people in the workplace to be professional, accountable and responsible. And they expect this of themselves.

Members of Generation X want to be left alone to do their jobs. Their mantra is:

  • Get to the point
  • Get out of the way
  • Get it moving

Millennials, on the other hand, want to be included and asked their opinion, as well as talk about their future. They would like to see their responsibilities “stretched” and expect some fun factor to be associated with their job.

The point of understanding these differences is that it allows employers to know how to best manage different employee cohorts and to help intergenerational teams work better together.

An interesting fact that Hiller shared is that in 1995, 55% of young people had summer jobs. That is down to 33% today. The takeaway from this is that many of the folks in the older generations learned basic workplace skills like showing up on time, taking responsibility and getting along with coworkers, at our first jobs, which were those summer jobs. Today, many millennials don’t have those experiences from summer jobs so they are learning the basic skills on the jobs they have now.

When screening millennials for employment in your business ask them if they have had a summer job to see if they have already learned the basic job skills. If they did not, make sure to include those lessons in your onboarding.

Most businesses today employ a workforce of varying ages. Understanding what influenced their upbringing and what they value can make for a more harmonious working environment.

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