Did you know that most workplaces today house multiple generations of professionals under one roof? Baby boomers, along with Generations X and Y, comprise the bulk of these employees. Before going into how to create a happy, healthy work environment, it’s worth having a brief overview of the generations and the key characteristics.
Baby boomers, for purposes of this article, are defined as workers born between 1946-1964 (age 52-70 in 2016).
One of the biggest mistakes professionals make when working with older employees is assuming that they don’t understand modern methods and technologies. Since most methods today were built on principles from the past, it makes sense that their input and expertise are still valued in the modern workplace. Aside from their professional expertise, they still have a solid collection of interpersonal qualities that aren’t necessarily found as much in other generations.
For example, many baby boomers are loyal to their employers and are willing to put in the time to help get the job done. They’re also team players that like to feel valued in their organization. This trait – being team players and the ability to make diplomatic decisions – when combined with project management skills (the ability to break down projects into manageable sections), means that these employees often are good at mentoring and sharing their skills with the younger generations. Another notable characteristic of this generation is that they tend to prefer to have conversations in person. You’re not likely to find these employees on job boards, or not as much as you would other generations. Instead, rely on in-person networking or referrals from those you know.
When you’re setting compensation for these workers, you’ll want to remember that they primarily value higher salaries, health insurance and a solid retirement plan.
Generation X, for purposes of this article, is defined as workers born between 1965-1980 (age 36-51 in 2016).
In general, you can expect this generation to be well educated, technologically astute and adaptive to change. They also have a hint of disdain for authority and are used to having a high turnover, no safety net and a free agency lifestyle. When you’re setting compensation for these workers, you’ll want to remember that they primarily value higher salaries, advancement within the company, job security and a work-life balance. Most of all, they also value a 401(k) plan with matching contributions.
Generation Y (Millennials)
Generation Y, for purposes of this article, is defined as workers born between 1981-1997 (age 19-35 in 2016).
Millennials are often referred to as if they’re an entirely new breed of humanity; however, is that necessarily a bad thing? In general, you can expect the following traits from this crowd:
- Extremely open minded and excited about their careers
- Goal oriented and great at multi-tasking
- Skilled collaborators who want open and honest communication with managers
They’re also extremely tech savvy and often have a solid understanding of how to leverage technology to solve problems on the job. In particular, they’re usually able to understand any communication tool and turn it into an opportunity for the business to sell, advertise or market their offerings fairly easily. Additionally, they’re often eager to learn from others, be it their peers or more mature professionals.
When you’re setting compensation for these workers, you’ll want to remember that they primarily value paid time off, the ability to telecommute, control over their schedules, professional development, wellness initiatives and choice in employee benefits.
A Winning Combination
Although managing and balancing these philosophies in the workplace can be a challenge, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make things work; after all, it’s diversity of opinions which help to make informed decisions. Recruiting employees across different generations isn’t easy, yet worthwhile for the success of your business. Across all three generations, one of the biggest common factors is the need for respect. It’s a two-way street where mature professionals want acknowledgement from younger workers, while young professionals feel they deserve recognition regardless of their age.
Aside from respect, collaboration is another major area to consider when managing employees of different generations. Since younger employees are newer to the workforce, they’re going to require some degree of direction and supervision. On the other hand, younger professionals can help older professionals leverage technology in the workplace, and even help them learn how to achieve a better work-life balance.
Overall, the key to success in this space is to set the right culture for your employees. By defining a set of core values and sticking to those, you can make managing multiple generations and philosophies much, much easier.