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Understanding the attributes of the multi-generational workforce

If yours is like most businesses, your workforce spans a significant age range. Trying to get people from different generations to work together can be a challenge, but it’s something that must be done if you are going to continue to operate successfully.

While it is always wise to avoid stereotypes, there are certain characteristics and attributes that generally apply to each group of workers.

Speaking at a recent NationaLease meeting, Mary Erlain, a certified change management specialist, offered some insight into the various generations in today’s work places.

Born between 1922 and 1945, the traditionalists now only make up about 5% of the work force. They tend to be conservative, fiscally prudent, loyal to their employers and dedicated, respectful and practical. Traditionalists feel that because of their experience, loyalty and past contributions they still have much to offer.

Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, have a strong work ethic, are loyal to careers and employers, lifelong learners, and believe that knowledge is power. Boomers have a clear understanding of how they fit into an organization.
Gen X’ers are independent, self-sufficient, and intolerant of bureaucracy, skeptical, want structure and direction, value direct and immediate communication and seek a work-life balance. Born between 1965 and 1976, people in this generation appreciate a forward-looking organization and appreciate the availability of technology to create speed and efficiency.

Gen Y’s, born between 1977 and 1989, are open-minded and accepting of differences, technology savvy, require work-life balance, want their organization to contribute globally, believe nothing is impossible and are able to multitask. This generation of workers wants the company to invest in their professional development and expects to be communicated with in a variety of ways on a frequent basis.

The last cohort is Gen Z. Born between 1990 and 2002, Gen Z’s seek instant gratification, process at lightning speed, communicate in short spurts, crave constant and immediate feedback, are dependent on technology and are self directed rather than team players. This generation wants flexibility in their work environment and expects the organization to allow them the opportunity to participate in efforts where they have passion.

These five generations have different values, ideas, ways of getting things done and communicating. However different does not mean wrong, Erlain says. Business owners need to keep these differences in mind during their recruiting, hiring and training processes and also in their approach to managing each of these groups.

And don’t get too complacent thinking you have these five generations all figured out. Erlain reminds us that Generation Alpha, those people born after 2003, will be entering the workforce in the not too distant future. They will adopt technology even faster than previous generations. They also will have increased health concerns, will start school earlier and stay in longer and have better career opportunities.

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