By Lisa Cohn
I recently heard the story of “Beverly,” a 63 year-old retiree who decided to rejoin the workplace because she missed working and needed a little extra money. Having always been a stickler for punctuality, Beverly arrives before 9 AM and always stays until 5 PM. Despite her strong work ethic, she never works from home.
Most of Beverly’s colleagues are in their 20’s and 30’s, value their work-life balance, and rarely work typical business hours. Beverly is starting to resent being the first one there and the last one to leave. Her colleagues feel that she is inflexible with her schedule, because she clocks out for the day at 5 PM while they are easily accessible, checking and responding to their email after work. So now, Beverly feels excluded from the team, and her colleagues feel judged for valuing their work-life balance.
Many individuals experience similar situations in the workplace. They understand their coworker’s viewpoint, yet they are left struggling how to adapt. Today’s diverse workplace — spanning across multiple generations — has created a fascinating and challenging employee dynamic, as each age group possesses unique skills, cultures, beliefs, and work ethics. The three current major generations are Baby Boomers (Born between 1946 and 1964), Generation Xers (Born between 1965 and 1980), and Millennials (born after 1980). Each age group presents workplace benefits and challenges.
To be successful, employers should be aware and consider what makes each generation valuable and unique. There are pros and cons for each group related to communication styles, company culture expectations, and use of technology.
Boomers prefer to communicate in person, Gen Xers favor phone calls and emails, and Millennials desire emails and text messages. While Gen Xers value growth options, mentoring opportunities and working independently, Millennials thrive on feedback and collaboration with others, and Boomers are less dependent on feedback.
In addition, all three generations interpret work culture differently. Boomers tend to value the 9 to 5 work day and prefer monetary rewards and professional development. Gen Xers, on the other hand, value their personal life balance and a flexible schedule. Millennials expect to be rewarded for what they bring to the table related to education and technology, but still desire learning opportunities.
Technology levels also play a key role at work. Gen Xers possess strong skills and are more willing to learn and adapt to job changes. Millennials possess the cutting-edge technological skills, as a result of growing up during the time of rapid internet growth. Boomers often lack the technology background the others have, which may contribute to a larger workplace learning curve.
Here are some tips to help you navigate working with the different generations:
- Offer various workplace training options – in person, online and social media, or hybrid.
- Utilize different types of communication to get your message out at work formally and informally – text messages, in person announcements at staff meetings, phone messages, and emails.
- Develop specific change management processes based on the different generations at your work by being flexible and accommodating to others’ needs.
- Give feedback based on the generation styles by considering how often, when, and how to provide it.
- Distribute anonymous questionnaires for employees to give their own views related to communication, feedback options, meetings, etc.
- Focus on cultivating the various strengths that the people from different generations can offer your organization through their diverse perspectives and skill sets.
Overcoming these generational challenges can be key to achieving harmony in the workplace. So, like America became a stronger country as it welcomed people from all parts of the world with diverse backgrounds and cultures, a company that embraces its generational diversity will be more vibrant and successful. It’s important to remember that everyone brings something to the table, so don’t dismiss others’ views just because they are different from yours. To learn more about managing a multigenerational workplace, please join JCS on Tuesday, May 7th at Strictly Business, our annual networking and awards breakfast. Click here for more information and to register.
Lisa Cohn is an Account Representative for the JCS Career Center.
For 80 years, the JCS Career Center has been addressing the interconnected needs of job seekers and employers, each vital to our region’s economic stability. JCS provides services that help individuals of all skill levels and abilities find and maintain employment, and assists employers with recruiting and retaining a strong workforce. For more information, call 410-466-9200 or visit jcsbaltimore.org.