Four different generations now make up the United States’ workforce. Organizations should know and understand the characteristics and workplace preferences that make each of the groups unique. Being equipped with this knowledge will assist companies in keeping employees happy and engaged, which in turn will help reduce turnover, attract top talent and achieve business success.
Companies should identify the various generations that currently exist at their workplaces. This information will help target the business practices and employee engagement tools that will be most effective for their staff. Below are some of the traits that distinguish each generation:
Matures (Born before 1946):
Typical characteristics of this age group include: disciplined, loyal, team players, rule followers and putting work before fun. They respect authority and rarely question instructions from their managers. Matures prefer formal and personal communication, such as memos and one-on-one meetings, when interacting with colleagues. They tend to struggle with new technology, but they are valuable resources for company knowledge. Matures are also extremely loyal to their organizations.
Baby Boomers (Born between 1946 -1964):
Typical characteristics of this generation include: workaholics, inquisitive to authority, focus on personal accomplishments and competitive. Baby Boomers are hard workers that will do whatever it takes to finish an assignment, including working nights and weekends and missing family time. This group respects power and accomplishment and prefers public recognition and career advancement opportunities when being rewarded. When interacting with coworkers, they favor a combination of electronic and personal communications. Additionally, they remain loyal to their profession.
Generation X (Born between 1965-1980):
Typical characteristics of this group include: skeptical, self-reliant, efficient and desires structure and fun. Gen Xers choose to work at organizations that will help them attain useful and marketable experiences. They prefer efficiency rather than a set method for getting work done, and they require a strong work-life balance. Competitive pay and time off work make great rewards for them. Giving them greater responsibility makes Gen Xers feel successful. Unlike the generations before them, Gen Xers are loyal to their specific career goals.
Millennials (Born between 1981-1999):
Typical characteristics of this generation include: multitasker, entrepreneurial, goal oriented, tenacious and tolerant. Millennials prefer to work by deadlines and goals instead of a rigid schedule, and constant feedback keeps them satisfied. They like to be recognized both individually andpublicly, and are eager for opportunities that broaden their skill set. They enjoy combining personal life with work life, and they are highly proficient in technology. They become loyal to the people they work closely with.
The descriptions above indicate that each generation values and expects something different from their workplace. Here are a few approaches to use when managing multiple generations:
- Matures and Baby Boomers have spent many years working. Use them as resources for company questions that Gen Xers or Millennials might have. Matures and Baby Boomers make great mentors to younger staff members, and they can be very helpful when training new staff on company policies, procedures and history.
- Gen Xers appreciate autonomy and independence in the workplace. Work-life balance is also important to this group. Similar to Gen Xers, Millennials enjoy their free time outside of work. Because Millennials are multitaskers with entrepreneurial spirits, a traditional schedule is not always best for them. Offer schedule flexibility, such as telecommuting, to please both groups.
- Frequent training opportunities will keep each generation engaged. Encourage Matures and Baby Boomers to offer their younger colleagues career advice through company training or mentorship programs. Have Gen Xers organize training sessions as more responsibility pleases them.
- Gen Xers and Millennials love receiving feedback. To help all employees succeed, make sure positive and constructive feedback is given consistently through the methods of communication that work best for each generation.
- Praise and recognition are appreciated by all. Know how each group likes to be rewarded and proceed appropriately. For example, a Baby Boomer would enjoy a company-wide email highlighting their success, while a personalized email about their hard work will please Millennials.
- No matter the age or length of employment at an organization, all employees should be viewed as valuable staff members. Creating an environment that promotes open communications will help all generations feel appreciated, respected and engaged in their organization.
For more information on how to manage various generations at your organization, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-688-7746.
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