Workspace demographics now span four generations. A twenty-something hired this year can expect to find that they working with colleagues who are older than they are by fifty or more years. The reason for this is primarily due to labor shortages for trained personnel in many industries. In addition, many older workers are now delaying retirement due for economic or other reasons. Many of the baby boomer generation can now be expected to delay retirement into their seventies. (Randstad USA)
As you will learn, an inter-generational workforce provides many opportunities and challenges. While generational differences can and do lead to frustration, conflicts and poor morale, they do not have to. This section of the handbook will help you to better understand effective methods for leading and working with intergenerational teams. You will see that the differences brought to the mix by different generations can lead to increased productivity, creativity and success. In addition, you will understand the programs and benefits offered to enhance and optimize the benefits of maintaining an inter-generational workforce.
Defining the Generations
In an article published in the Journal for Quality and Participation, Gesell provides the following definitions of the generations.
The Silent Generation. Born between 1925 and 1945, this group values hard work, conformity, dedication, sacrifice and patience. They are comfortable with delayed recognition and reward.
The Baby Boomer Generation. Born between 1946 and 1964, this group are optimistic and team oriented. They place a high value on their work ethic while also seeking personal gratification and growth.
Generation X. This is the group born between 1965 and 1980. They are self-reliant, global thinkers who value fun, balance and informality.
Millennials. This group was born between 1981 and 2000. Members of this group exhibit confidence, optimism, civic responsibility, street smarts, inclusivity, collaboration and open mindedness. They tend to be goal oriented.
(Gesell, Jan 2010)
Similarities across the Generations
It is important to note that, although there are significant differences between the generations, there are also important commonalities. A successful manager will work to create a work environment that leverages these similarities to maximize their success.
According to Randstad USA, a job placement and research agency, the similarities among the generations include the following: * People of all ages view work as a vehicle for personal fulfillment and satisfaction, not just for a paycheck; yet they want compensation that’s in line with the current marketplace. * The highest indicator of satisfaction is to feel valued on the job. * More than 70% of all employees want a supportive work environment where they are recognized and appreciated. Workplace culture is important to the job satisfaction of all employees. * Career development is a high priority. But while three-quarters of employers also rated it highly, only half of employees give their organizations good marks in this area. * Flexibility is important. More than seven out of ten workers would like to be able to set their own hours, as long as the work gets done.
Current Labor Force Demographics
In the past five years alone, there has been a significant shift in the age groups of persons in the workforce. The chart below illustrates the changes in the distribution of ages in the workforce as of 2006 and 2011. The three generations born after 1946 now comprise a greater of the workforce, and thus the likelihood of inter-generational job interactions has increased.
This table was prepared using age-segmented labor force projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Challenges for Managers
The generations have different perspectives on issues like work ethic, leadership, and authority....