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Mind the Gap

12 October 2023

Mind the Gap.

The generational gap that is.

For the first time ever, it’s possible for companies to have five different generations of employees all working together in the same space. Which is quite incredible when you think of it.

As with all diversity, it’s important for businesses to celebrate and embrace the differences in styles and approach that a wide range of ages in a workplace will bring.

At risk of applying sweeping generalisations here; this is not about pesky kids or dinosaurs.

Regardless of negative stereotypes about each generation, part of building an inclusive culture is to understand the age profile of a business.

Let’s take a look at how generations differ from each other in the workplace, which is much researched, as defined by birth years:

1. Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

Baby boomers have been working the longest and many will be looking to retire soon.

Working styles: face-to-face or by email

They value: respectful behaviour, financial reward and recognition for work they do well

Positives: they work hard, are goal-oriented, disciplined, competitive and team players

Blind sides: might struggle with what they perceive as a poor work ethic and lack of commitment in others.

2. Generation X (1965-1981)

Generation X love a challenge, are resourceful, self-sufficient and independent

Working styles: email, in person and online

They value: job security, autonomy and financial reward

Positives: love to collaborate and help others by sharing experience

Blind sides: do not respond well to being micromanaged

Overall Gen X are balanced, and may seek coaching or mentoring to be even better.

3. Generation Y (1982-1995)

Also known as millennials, Generation Y is ambitious and will readily jump ship to better their careers.

Working style: email and online, teamwork

They value: trust and transparency, flexible working schedules, clear direction

Positives: will show great commitment and loyalty in a job they are passionate about

Blind sides: can be seen to have disrespectful attitudes, unrealistic demands and an over reliance on technology

Generation Y want to learn and grow, feel comfortable and be themselves at work.

4. Generation Z (1995-2005)

Generation Z are digitally competent and entrepreneurial.

Work styles: natural multi-taskers, instant messaging apps

They value: recognition and reward, job security, independence

Positives: tech-savvy, highly motivated and passionate about the right job

Blind sides: want and expect employers to accommodate their individual needs

5. Generation Alpha (2005-Onwards)

Generation Alpha are entering the workplace now as the offspring of Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z. Also referred to as the iGeneration these youngsters will drive and shape the workplaces of the future.

It is thought that this new breed will show similar characteristics as their parents in the workplace.

So, a look across the different generations is all very interesting but not an exact science.

Rather than pigeon holing your people by age, CIPD research questions the relevance of these findings and suggests that not everyone fits neatly into their age group category.

Which is good advice. Labelling employees in that way leads to unfair judgements and assumptions. You’d be as well looking at horoscopes next…

What businesses might want to know is that when asked what employees were most looking for in an employer in a Gallup poll, their top 3 answers were surprisingly similar…

In short, what everyone is looking for is:

  • The organisation cares about employees’ wellbeing.
  • Ethical leadership.
  • Diversity and inclusive of all people.
  • Openness and transparency.
  • Financial stability.

Strong values, ethics and a positive culture in a business is everything to employees - regardless of being a Baby Boomer, Gen X, Y, Z or A.

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