Generations in the workplace
Post written by Paragon Interiors   July 25, 2016

By 2020, there will be four (maybe even five – if the Traditionalists remain at their posts) generations working alongside each other in the workplace; the obstinate Baby Boomers who refuse to retire, the hard-working Gen Xers, tech savvy Millennials and the always-connected Gen Z’s.

See what I did there? I easily assigned a stereotypical belief associated with each group, without you thinking too much about it. In fact, you were probably more focused on the date and the complexities around what is to come, rather than the fact that I labelled each group. So what makes generational stereotypes any worse than gender based stereotypes or other social assumptions?

Who is to say that Gen Xers can’t be tech savvy or Gen Y’s, hard-working?

Although it is valuable to understand how each generation may prefer to work, we should be careful not to assign labels to each and make assumptions about their ability to adapt to new ways of working. Individual differences always trump group differences.

So how then should one approach different age groups in organizations?

The Harvard Business Review (2014) collated views from various experts, and offers some sound advice:

  • Don’t focus on differences but move beyond labels or assumptions to focus on individuals;
  • Build collaborative relationships by encouraging interaction, knowledge sharing and debate;
  • Study the demographics of your workforce and determine how they prefer to communicate, make decisions etc.;
  • Create reciprocal opportunities for mentoring – older, more experienced employees can pass on institutional knowledge to the younger generations and younger employees can teach older employees how to use new technologies.
  • Understand where each age group is in their life paths and motivate them by catering for their needs. Gen X staff may have families and may be looking for more flexibility, and older employees, may be in search of more balance in their lives.

Different generations working together in the workplace is not something that should be looked upon with apprehension, but rather as a great opportunity to further capitalize on the diversity that each individual member adds to a team. A multi-generational environment will ensure that organizations come up with the best solutions to cater for an increasingly diverse market.

References:

Harvard Business Review (2014). Managing people from five generations. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/09/managing-people-from-5-generations