Generational Differences in the Workplace

May 6, 2015 by Staff
Copeland Buhl

For the first time in our history, four different generations are working together. With that, it is important that we have an understanding of their differences so we can ensure we are engaging one another effectively. The four generations that currently comprise our workforce are Traditionalists (born 1920-1945), Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1980) and Generation Y/Millennials (born 1981-2006). Having a better understanding of the traits applicable to each generation is important in ensuring an organization’s ability to effectively manage and motivate their employees.

Traditionalists (1920-1945)
Individuals falling in this generation are described as hard-working, loyal, patriotic and very disciplined. Helpful workplace tips are to treat them as you would like to be treated; they value respect. Being as though technological advances have been fast-moving, it is important that you are patient with them when discussing various technologies whether it be individually or in a group setting. Ensure to offer sufficient training when different technologies become available in the workplace and have technical experts available to support them during periods of significant technology change within the organization.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
Baby Boomers are typically viewed as competitive, optimistic and career-minded. In the work environment, they prefer face-to-face interaction with others. They are very knowledgeable and are approaching retirement age. As such, organizations should consider formal mentorship programs for less experienced employees within their organizations as a way to bridge any knowledge gaps within the business. Additional flexibility offerings should also be considered with regard to their work schedules as a way to maintain their skillset within your organization for a longer period of time.

Generation X (1965 – 1980)
Generation X values diversity, likes to have fun and are able to adapt to technological changes more easily than the Baby Boomer and Traditionalist generations. They appreciate feedback which is an opportunity for an organization to ensure they have an effective and ongoing communication plan in place with regard to annual performance reviews, corrective actions plans, etc. They enjoy learning which can be supported in a workplace that offers employee benefits pertaining to continuing education, professional certifications, tuition assistance, etc.

Generation Y/Millennials (1981 – 2006)
Millennials have been raised in a fast-paced environment. They have grown-up with technology and because of this, prefer to be current with the latest technological offerings. They are attracted to a work environment that is fun and flexible and would like their employer to support volunteerism and charitable initiatives. Employers can support this by allotting a specified number of paid hours or days for charitable volunteering initiatives on an annual basis. Millennials also desire continuous communication with others in the work environment while focusing on the positives. This provides an opportunity for their employer to increase communication efforts internally by holding all-employee meetings with business updates and company newsletters providing continued communication regarding the business, employee news, etc.

Finally, it is likely that we will all run into challenges in the workplace resulting from generational differences. With that, it is ever more important that we take a moment to understand what makes each generation unique. In doing so, we will be better equipped to manage an evolving workforce and better meet the needs of employees.

Rachael Myers