Today’s workforce spans five generations: traditionalists, baby boomers and Generations X, Y and Z. Each generation comprises distinctive communication styles, motivations and approaches to work. By understanding each generation’s unique needs and how to support those needs, employers can better adapt to current and emerging generations. Plus, catering to the needs of multigenerational workforces will ultimately make you a better leader.
Supporting multigenerational workforces
Breakdown of workforce by generation:
- Traditionalists (1925-1945) = 2%
- Baby boomers (1946- 1964) = 25%
- Generation X (1965-1980) = 33%
- Generation Y (1981-2000) = 35%
- Generation Z (2001-2020) = 5%
Traditionalists are described as reliable, strategic, simple and insightful, oftentimes motivated by esteem, appreciation and long-term contribution to the organization. They can be seen as having an “old-fashioned” approach to their work preferences, such as handwritten notes, obedience and hierarchy of seniority. While traditionalists only comprise 2% of today’s workforce, employers should still support the few who remain by providing stability and ample opportunities to contribute.
Baby boomers are described as confident, ambitious, hardworking and collaborative as well as those who appreciate commitment, synergy and responsibility. Baby boomers oftentimes prefer efficient communications, typically phone calls and face-to-face interactions. They oftentimes follow the belief that years of service and sacrifice pave the path to success. To help baby boomers succeed, employers should create specific goals and deadlines, offer mentorships roles and take a coaching-style feedback approach.
Did you know 65% of baby boomers plan to work past age 65?
Generation X are described as adaptable, independent, casual and dubious as well as those who value diversity, work-life balance and their own interests before the business’ interests. Like baby boomers, they tend to prefer the most efficient communication style. Employers should understand Gen Xers are more prone to jump ship if you fail to meet their needs or implement changes that impact their personal life. To support them, provide real-time feedback, flexible work arrangements that favor work-life balance and develop personal development opportunities. Gen Xers will outnumber baby boomers by 2028.
Fun fact: Gen Xers make up the highest percentage of startup founders at 55%.
Generation Y, also known as millennials, are described as ambitious, philanthropic, open-minded and data driven as well as those who value responsibility, quality managers and opportunities to explore all facets of their role. Millennials prefer digital communications, such as instant messaging, text and email. They seek challenges that push them to grow and a fun work-life balance. As an employer, they thrive on building relationships, data-driven results and flexible work arrangements.
By 2025, millennials will comprise roughly 75% of the global workforce.
Generation Z are the newest additions to the workforce and are described as universal, innovative and open-minded as well as those who value diversity, individuality, creativity and personalization. Like millennials, they favor digital communications with an emphasis on social media. Gen Zers are addicted to technology, new age concepts and innovation, so employers should offer multiple projects to increase collaboration and innovation, work-life balance and opportunities to develop independence.
However, 84% of Gen Z expects their employer to provide formal training.
Understanding multigenerational workforces
With multiple generations comprising today’s workforces, it is imperative that employers understand that no matter the age, employees bring valuable and diverse life experiences, perspectives and views.
Here are four challenges multigenerational workforces must consider:
- Company culture. While fun company perks, such as game rooms and bringing your pet to work, are appreciated, defining a company culture goes beyond office perks. Hosting company events, team happy hours and celebrating special occasions can offer opportunities for collaborative growth.
- Communication style. As described above, each generation has preferred communication styles. Industry experts recommend managers and employees communicate in each individual’s preferred communication style. For example, if a millennial were to communicate with a baby boomer, the millennial should respect the baby boomer’s communication preference of phone or face-to-face interaction.
- Negative stereotypes. Like most things in life, each generation has stereotypes. To help combat such stereotypes, a conscious effort needs to be made from both employees and employers. Employees must align their ambitions with a strategy that will help them obtain it, whereas employers need to proactively address any generational gaps or disruptions.
- Cultural expectations. What started as hours worked at a desk has evolved into layers of flexible work options. For older generations, performance used to be measured by hours worked in the office. Today, industry experts highlight that productivity isn’t always produced in a traditional setting. Telecommuting and work-life balance are becoming the new cultural expectation, especially in a near post-pandemic time.
From development and training to job descriptions and performance reviews, AccessPoint’s HR management team can provide the support, resources and tools you need to successfully manage a multigenerational workforce.
Originally published July 19, 2021.