Many of today’s US organizations currently have three, and sometimes four different generations working side-by-side. Traditionalists were those born between 1925 and 1946. Many in this age group have retired, and so they are the smallest generation currently in the workforce.
Then comes the Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964, right after World War II. The Baby Boomers typically work in jobs that provide stability and longevity. My parents are great examples of this generation – my mom worked at a hospital for over 40 years, and my dad was a firefighter for 30 years. They are both retired now, but both were “workaholics”. Work-life balance wasn’t as important to them as it is to me.
Next up is Generation X… or as I like to call it, the Lost Generation, and I can say that because I technically fall into that group. We are the crowd who was born between 1965-1980, typically babies of Baby Boomers. What’s funny is that I have a hard time even coming up with any defining characteristics of Gen X, and I imagine I’m not alone in that. We are tech savvy – I had a computer growing up, although not quite the machines that today’s youth has! I remember learning about Google when I was a sophomore in college, and I also remember doing research at a library using the Dewey Decimal system (You youngsters have no idea how good you have it nowadays!). So I grew up in a hybrid world where high technology was just coming of age. I’m old enough to remember what life was like before Facebook, but I’m also young enough to understand the importance of new age concepts like work-life balance and flexible schedules.
Then comes Gen Y or the Millennials. Born after 1980, these employees grew up in a high-tech world. Classrooms had computers in them, everyone had laptops, and they barely lived in a world without modern technology. Where Gen X’ers are tech-savvy, Gen Y is tech-dependent.
So what’s the big deal, right? Well, at the workplace, each generation typically wants and needs different things. Gen Y wants cool, modern technology, and they want to work in a job that has some meaning or social impact. Gen X wants upward career mobility and a ton of independence. Baby Boomers want stability and a strong retirement plan.
So how does your management team deal with all of these different wants and needs? First look at each person in your team or organization. Realize where they are in their life… are they starting a family and need some flexibility with hours? Are they fresh out of college and want to make an impact on the world? Are they close to retirement and just need to work a few more years? Identify these important factors and then come up with plans to support each person and generation. Give Gen X’ers freedom and independence on work projects. Get cool software for your Gen Y crowd. Make sure you have a great 401k or retirement plan for your Baby Boomers. The more you can engage each generation in the workplace, the more successful your organization will be!