Workforce Generations (Part I)

Workforce Generations (Part 1)

This past weekend, I was reading an article online that mentioned the “silent generation”. I didn’t want to assume that I knew what that meant, so I looked it up and found quite a bit of information about the multiple generations currently sharing space on the planet. The Silent Generation/Traditionalists born before 1945), Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964), Gen X (born between 1965-1980), Gen Y/Millennials (born between 1981-1996) and Gen Z/iGen (born after 1997).

Of course, I went down the internet rabbit hole and started researching and reading. There are now, five (5) generations in the workforce. The differences between them are significant and learning to manage all 5 is a challenge. Article after article details the complexities of managing a staff that is so disparate.

The Silent Generation came of age in a time when letters were the primary method of communication. The depression, WWII and defined gender roles created their worldview. They’ve had to learn new technologies to remain relevant in the workplace; prefer regular schedules, rules and respect; and have often worked for the same employer their entire career.

The Boomers are motivated by titles, retirement plans and income. The Cold War, Vietnam, Moon landing and Woodstock shaped their formative years. As adults, they live to work, preferring to stay with a single, large organization for their career. Again, they did not grow up with technology and are most comfortable using the telephone and email to communicate.

Generation X grew up during the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Gulf War, the introduction of video games, mobile phones and personal computers and increasing divorce rates. This perspective has created a generation that looks for family-flexible schedules, fair and equal pay structure that include health insurance, and that, generally speaking, is loyal to a profession rather than a single employer. Their preferred communication methods are email and text.

Millennials or Gen Y have a bad reputation, but they have been through a lot in their lifetime. Their lives and attitudes were formed by 9/11 and the increase of global terrorism, social media and reality TV. They are most comfortable communicating via text and social media and look for jobs that provide flexible time off, equal pay and opportunities to travel. This group prefers to hold digital positions, working with organizations rather than for them. They have a strong desire for meaningful work and don’t want to settle for doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Finally, Gen Z or iGen workers are just now entering the workforce. This generation’s perspective has been influenced by Wiki-leaks, global warming, mobile device proliferation and having lived through a significant economic downturn. They are most comfortable communicating using smartphones or wearable devices and are looking for mobility. It’s still too early to determine what will motivate them in the workplace, but it’s clear that they will be looking to work where their knowledge is valued and where there is opportunity for growth and promotion.

When I came up for air, I realized that I had just really looked at the tip of the iceberg. I may finally understand what each generation is and wants, but managing them in the same workplace is a completely different story. Knowing that we have 4 out of 5 generations represented in the Found Advisors office made me curious to learn more and I will be sharing what I learn in Workforce Generations Part 2.


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