Managing an Intergenerational Workplace

Now that Canada has eliminated the mandatory retirement age for most occupations, today’s workplace includes Veterans, Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials working side by side. The book Generations at Work describes the four generations as having, “unique work ethics, different perspectives on work, distinct and preferred ways of managing and being managed, idiosyncratic styles, and unique ways of viewing such work-related issues as quality, service and well, just showing up for work”. Recognizing and responding to the differences of an intergenerational workplace is the key to creating a successful work environment.

According to an article by Gensler Architects, “Leading generational experts Claire Raines, Ron Zemke and Bob Filipczak defined the four modern U.S. generations in their well-known book Generations at Work:” (Note: The dates provided may vary from country to country or study to study.)

Veterans (born 1920-1942)
Veterans bring a traditional, heroic attitude to work. This oldest workplace generation is practical, respectful and accustomed to hierarchical leadership. They are a reliable and steadfast presence, but somewhat uncomfortable with the wild blender of technology and age/gender/ethnic diversity in today’s workplace.

Baby Boomers (born 1943-1960)
Baby Boomers…are typically driven and optimistic. They enjoyed the thrilling progress of television, the space age and modern suburbia. While they carry over some of the Veterans’ duty-driven work habits, they were also the originators of collaborative work and consensus-based leadership. They’re cautiously pro-technology and interested in helping younger generations learn.

Generation X (born 1961-1979)
This group is influenced by sweeping social change and sandwiched between the optimism of the post-WWII generation and the complexity of a globalized world. Given work that is meaningful, colleagues they respect, and a schedule with work-life balance, they are a highly creative and productive group.

Millennials – also know as Generation Y (born 1980-2000)
Raised by parents determined to provide them the best, they are smart and sophisticated. This generation has digital DNA and only knows the world with DVDs, iPods, wireless access, multiple cell phone families and homework done over the web. After years in play groups and organized after-school activities, they are natural collaborators.

Even with all their inherent differences, “large scale studies using random samples and validated measure have found only slight differences in the job attitudes and values of Millennials, and members of older generations,” according to an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled, Hitting the Generational Sweet Spot. However, studies note the difference between the generations, “relationship to and facility with technology”. Studies also point out Millennials fragile loyalty to organizations.

The article reveals the important commonalities of all four generations, “Research from the University of North Carolina shows that Millennials want the same things from their employers that Generation X and Baby Boomers do: challenging, meaningful work; opportunities for learning, development and advancement; support to successfully integrate work and personal life; fair treatment and competitive compensation. What’s more, all three generations agree on the characteristics of an ideal leader: a person who leads by example, is accessible, acts as a coach and mentor, helps employees see how their roles contribute to the organization, and challenges others and holds them accountable”.

Join Sheridan’s Employment Development Specialist, Kerri Zanatta-Buehler, for our upcoming Business of Aging: Business Exchange Network (BA:IEN) breakfast meeting on October 30, to learn more about the important issues surrounding managing intergenerational workplaces. See below for more information.

BAIEN mtg Oct 30_13 V5 BAIEN mtg Oct 30_13 V5


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