Insight Blog

Embracing Generational Differences

Embracing Generational Differences
For the first time in history, there are five generations in the workplace:
  • Silent (or Greatest)—born 1945 or earlier
  • Baby Boomers—born 1946 to 1964
  • Generation X—born 1965 to 1980
  • Millennials—born 1981 to 1996
  • Generation Z—born 1997 and later

The Pew Research Center reports that the Silent Generation and Generation Z represent the lowest percentage of the workforce at a respective 2 and 5%. Baby Boomers make up 25%, Generation Xers are one third, and Millennials represent the highest number of employees at 35%.

According to a Deloitte Insights article, 70% of organizations say leading multigenerational workforces is important or very important for their success over the next 12-18 months but only 10% say they are ready to address this issue. Only 6% of survey respondents strongly agree their leaders are equipped to lead a multigenerational workforce. In the past, organizations have focused on an employee’s generation to assume the individual’s values and motivators. Interestingly, different generations often have similar ideas about what they want in a workplace; however, the way they communicate and work towards goals may differ.

What other factors are important to consider in a work environment?

Strengths that each generation offers

Of the three most populous generations in the workplace, each has unique strengths. These typically include:
Baby Boomers—depth of industry knowledge; developed skill sets; adept at face-to-face communication; strong work ethic.
Generation Xers—problem-solving abilities; adept at resolving conflict through open dialogue; direct and efficient communication; skilled at maximizing resources.
Millennials—multi-tasking abilities; adept at bringing people together and embracing diversity; team-oriented; focused on technological solutions.

How to provide opportunities for all employees to share insight

Although working in a fully remote environment limits face-to-face communication, it is important under normal circumstances to have a variety of meetings and opportunities to share input.
Some people excel in group settings, others in one-on-one meetings or phone conversations, some by submitting information instantly via chat apps, and some by
pondering and responding at a later date.

However, one’s generation does not always indicate communication style. How a topic ranks in priority may affect how it is best communicated to others. A common way people assess priority is by using the Eisenhower Matrix (shown above)—named after the 34th President of the United States who used it to decide which of many tasks he should focus on each day.

How to use unique abilities to strengthen teams

Baby Boomers and Generation Xers can assist Millennials in improving written and face-to-face communication skills.
Boomers can share their experiences while Xers can demonstrate how to work through conflicts.
Millennials can be role models for embracing change and adopting technology while promoting socialization in the workplace.

How to best support employees

For Baby Boomers, employers should offer mentoring opportunities. This may include the ability to speak to student groups or interns and to partner with younger employees by providing insight on industry knowledge.
For Generation Xers, employers should extend opportunities for personal development. This may involve attendance at conferences and seminars, securing licenses, or even supporting post-graduate education.
For Millennials, employers should be flexible with schedules and work assignments. This may involve conversations on how to prioritize and re-prioritize work assignments as well as varied start and end times to the day.

It is important to note that while some characteristics may be accurate, they do reflect stereotypical thinking. In fact, there is a growing movement of “perennials,” a term first introduced by lecturer Gina Pell in 2016. She describes them as people of all ages who are curious, embrace growth and change, know how to perceive themselves and others around them, and resist categorization. The mindset also defies the cultural and social obsession with age and the idea that people need to follow a certain life path. 

As roles become more challenging and people become more complex, forward-thinking talent management and talent acquisition programs are being redesigned to address the needs and concerns of individuals.

If you would like to discuss recruiting or hiring to support your current team, please contact us to reach a Helbling search consultant.