According to Fortune magazine, one of the biggest challenges corporate leaders say they face – managing today’s multi-generational workforce comprised of Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers. That’s according to executives at many of the companies that make up this year’s Fortune 100 Best Companies list.
Count the opposite ends of the generational spectrum, and employers are faced with an unprecedented five generations in the workplace at once. Each group has a view of work and company culture that is at odds with the other. Devising programs to bridge perspectives, roles and expectations can resemble herding cats.
According to a Gallup survey of professionals across generations and industries, workers from the different generations have their own strengths and weaknesses. The study found that Millennials know technology, but aren’t so great at working in teams. Gen X-ers think like entrepreneurs, but don’t show much interest in rising to executive ranks. Boomers are both leaders and team players, but technological change is challenging.
Effectively managing Millennials, Gen X-ers and Boomers often means creating common ground where technical passion and business experience can meet. Each generation has key characteristics that distinguish it from the others. Companies need to take this into consideration when planning and executing strategies to attract and retain contributors from all generations.
Typically, Millennials are dynamic, high energy, full of ideas and thoroughly understand cloud, mobile and social sides of technology. With technology driving the world forward, these are essential skills for all companies.
Millennials believe they can work from anywhere. They don’t feel the need for the structure or face-to-face relationships that onsite office arrangements offer. Millennials leave companies with traditional work arrangements in favor of completely virtual arrangements.
According to Dan Schawbel, author of Me: 2.0, “Workplace trends are being driven by millennials because they care about culture. Research shows that millennials typically stay at a job for about two years—and they have different priorities. They’d rather have meaningful work over more pay, or work for a company that gives back or cares about the environment. They want a culture that’s less hierarchical, more flexible, and more understanding of difference, because millennials are the most diverse generation.”
According to a 2015 EY study, Gen-Xers are the most technically savvy. Their traits include adaptability, problem-solving and collaboration. Given that they are the generation with both experience behind them and career years in front of them, it’s good to hear that they are the most enthusiastic about their jobs. EY study participants said that giving employees opportunities to learn and grow is an important element for Gen-X members.
The EY study also determined that Gen-Xers are similar to Millennials in their desire for workplace flexibility. The majority reported they are more likely to quit their jobs if they aren’t provided virtual options.
Boomers are motivated by team participation and mentoring. They aren’t as technically savvy as younger workers, but they have experienced first-hand the trends that have revolutionized how business is done. They are good at recognizing patterns and managing the impact of change on the workplace. Boomers in leadership positions have the skills to guide both people and technology.
The EY study revealed that Baby Boomers ranked the highest when it comes to being a productive part of their organizations. They are known for their hard work. Boomers need to feel their work experience is valued by the organization.
Add the Greatest Generation (also called the Silent Generation – those born between 1930 and 1945) and the newbies of the workforce, Gen Z (also known as the iGeneration – those born since the late 1990s), and it’s no wonder that employers are scrambling for robust strategies that can keep both 80-somethings and teenagers working towards the same goals.
Balance is key. A workplace culture can provide opportunities for the members of all generations to do what they’re good at, as well as contribute to the education of one another. Don’t let any one group overwhelm the other.