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Understanding and Supporting Multigenerational Workforces

February 15, 2021
Older, female supervisor discussing business article with younger, female coworker

Today’s workforce spans five generations: traditionalists, baby boomers, 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 can help employers adapt to current and emerging generations.

Supporting Multigenerational Workforces

Breakdown of workforce by generation

  • Traditionalists (1925-1945) = 2%
  • Generation Z (2001-2020) = 5%
  • Baby Boomers (1946- 1964) = 25%
  • Generation X (1965-1980) = 33%
  • Generation Y (1981-2000) = 35%

Traditionalists

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, employer should still support the few that remain by providing ample opportunities to contribute and stability.

Baby Boomers

Baby boomers are described as confident, ambitious, hardworking, and collaborators 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 that 65% of baby boomers plan to work past age 65?[1]

Generation X

Generation X are described as adaptable, independent, casual, and dubious who value diversity, work-life balance, and own interests before the business’s interests. Like baby boomers, they tend to prefer the most efficient communication style. Employers should understand that 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[2]

Fun fact: Gen Xers make up the highest percentage of startup founders at 55%.[3]

Generation Y

Generation Y, also known as Millennials, are described as ambitious, philanthropic, open-minded, data driven, 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 75% of the global workforce[/4]

Generation Z

Generation Z are the newest additions to the workforce and are described as universal, innovative, open-minded, 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[5]

Understanding Multigenerational Workforces

With multiple generations comprising the current workforce, it is imperative that employers understand that no matter the age, employees bring valuable, diverse life experiences, perspectives, and views. Here are four challenges multigenerational workforces must consider.

  1. Company culture. While fun company perks, such as game rooms and bring your pet to work allowances, 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

 

Sources:
Business News Daily
Purdue University Global

 

[1] The Motley Fool
[2] Pew Research Center
[3] Inc
[4] Deloitte
[5] Accenture Strategy