Multiple Generations in the Workplace

Multiple Generations in the Workplace
HI

Human Intelligent (HI) Workplace
Helping Leaders Help Themselves

June 24, 2024

Inter-generational Differences and Similarities in the Workplace – Implications for Organizations in the 21st Century

By now I’m sure you realize there are multiple generations in the workplace in the U.S.  Each age segment has been at times identified with different backgrounds, experiences, and work values. The following provides a short insight into each age group.

matured Workforce

Mature workforce  

The Mature segment are those from World War II or born before 1946. While less in number in the workforce they are still present. These individuals may be the founder of an organization, or someone continuing to work because they need to financially or want to in order to stay active. But they should not be counted out of work, because all you have to think about is Warren Buffet who is 92 and still very active.  Their workforce values have been identified as appreciating recognition, being willing to sacrifice, being comfortable with hierarchy, and being resistant to change.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers

Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. They have been described as tending to be dedicated, preferring face time (even though the Pandemic may have changed this some), are team-oriented, and focused on personal health and wellness. They are living longer and healthier than their parents and are revisiting the extended chapters in their lives, focusing on purpose, and even looking for what they’ve really wanted to do all their lives but were not able to when younger, usually married, with children, and pursuing their career. While there is an increasing number beginning to retire, especially after the pandemic, there is still a large segment in the workplace and in most cases running organizations as a study by Korn Ferry found that the average age of most CEOs is 59.

Generation X

Generation X 

Generation X was born between 1965 and 1980. They have been described as preferring work/life balance, in some cases referred to as the middle child since the baby boomers and Millennials get a lot of attention. They have also been known to have to wrestle with the issues of maintaining their family and being there for their aging parents. They have been known to prefer autonomy, flexibility, informality, and diversity, and are globally oriented.

Millennials

Millennials 

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1997 and have been described as being open to feedback, recognition, fulfillment, advanced technology, fun, and open-mindedness. They are also known for being increasingly diverse as found in a Pew Research study, with 44% being Latino, followed by African Americans at 35%, then Asians at 30%, and White at 27%. They along with the baby boomers have received plenty of attention and research. In some cases, some of the older generations, particularly baby boomers have described them as being selfish, not loyal, or impatient and wanting to move up an organization sooner than they should deserve. This is usually the baby boomer’s perspective until they are reminded of who raised them because they are usually of their children’s age.

Generation Z

Generation Z

Generation Z, born from 1997 forward means that by 2023 they are in the workforce.  This generation does not know what it is to not have a cellphone or the internet since they have grown up with technology, are increasingly diverse, some born into 9-11 and all lived and grew up through a Pandemic. The Conference Board recently conducted a study and found them to be concerned about fair pay and transparency, are looking for autonomy, preferring organizations that prioritize safety and health, want to continue to learn and grow (not much different than the other generations), and want to work for organizations that truly live their values.

Different and/or Similar

As much as we may look at these differences there have been some interesting findings regarding the age group similarities. In a Harvard Business Review article titled: “What do Millennials really want” the author found an interesting study by IBM that highlighted what the Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials preferred. It showed that the three groups were pretty close in wanting to make a positive impact in their organization, work with a diverse group of people, and do work that they were passionate about. While the Matures and Gen Z groups were not in the study, we can probably make a safe assumption that there are similar interests in them.

One other area that seems to be similar for all groups is what motivates them. Dan Pink in his Ted Talk, The Puzzle of Motivation, found that what tends to motivate us all is, Personal Mastery, the willingness to learn irrespective of age, Autonomy, to have control and choice over what they do and when, and Purpose, the desire to do something bigger than themselves.

A recent article and study by McKinsey found that one of the top three reasons for leaving an organization is an uncaring and uninspiring leader, from Gen Z through Boomers. Based on this, organizations should look to ensure they are creating environments that not only recognize and appreciate the differences but also appreciate what they all want, irrespective of age.

Different and/or Similar

As much as we may look at these differences there have been some interesting findings regarding the age group similarities. In a Harvard Business Review article titled: “What do Millennials really want” the author found an interesting study by IBM that highlighted what the Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials preferred. It showed that the three groups were pretty close in wanting to make a positive impact in their organization, work with a diverse group of people, and do work that they were passionate about. While the Matures and Gen Z groups were not in the study, we can probably make a safe assumption that there are similar interests in them.

One other area that seems to be similar for all groups is what motivates them. Dan Pink in his Ted Talk, The Puzzle of Motivation, found that what tends to motivate us all is, Personal Mastery, the willingness to learn irrespective of age, Autonomy, to have control and choice over what they do and when, and Purpose, the desire to do something bigger than themselves.

A recent article and study by McKinsey found that one of the top three reasons for leaving an organization is an uncaring and uninspiring leader, from Gen Z through Boomers. Based on this, organizations should look to ensure they are creating environments that not only recognize and appreciate the differences but also appreciate what they all want, irrespective of age.

Organizational Implications

A key piece that all organizations should consider in the 21st century is that the psychology of the workforce has shifted, and the Pandemic created a dramatic tipping point. Most have heard of the Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and now Quiet Hiring.  Increasingly today’s workforce is looking for purpose, happiness, being appreciated, respected, transparency, and having leaders who are authentic, empathetic, compassionate, who value their differences and ensure inclusion of all and all points of view, and who genuinely listen to them.

This has been an ongoing challenge and opportunity for organizations as they spend billions on leadership development and we still have a study cited in the book, The Mind of a Leader, where one-third of individuals surveyed would give up a pay raise to see their boss fired. Where in a Deloitte study as recent as 2021, executives and workers were asked to rank ten items with one being the most important and ten being the least, one of them being “employee well-being”.  Executives ranked this item 8th, while the workers ranked it 3rd.  There appears to be a disconnect between what is important for the workforce, irrespective of age, and organizational leadership.

The bottom line, there are opportunities for organizations. Recognize that while there are differences among the different age groups, and diversity can provide an organizational advantage, there are some key similarities that leaders need to take into consideration if they are to maximize the psychology of the workforce in the 21st century. At the end of the day, people are looking for organizations to be more human-centered, irrespective of age.

The End?  Really the beginning…

You May Also Like…

0 Comments