The Four Generations at Work
With four generations in our organizations: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Ys, we all work in multigenerational teams Each generational cohort possesses unique values, characteristics and skills based on their experiences and life-defining events. These shared experiences create generational identities.
With four generations in the workplace, organizations are faced with four different – and often conflicting – approaches to work. As each generation has its own unique identity, its “generational baggage” travels with it into the workplace. This can impact team, departmental and organizational performance. For example, when a Traditionalist’s respect for authority and directive management style meets a Gen Xer’s relaxed attitude toward authority and informal work style, conflicts can erupt.
When generational approaches to work clash, the results are increased turnover, reduced employee engagement and diminished business results. Therefore, it is important that organizations have strategies in place for keeping employees of all generations engaged.
Recruiting a Generational Workforce
The recruitment process is the first step in creating an engaging relationship with employees. From the first touch point, usually a job posting or your website, candidates will form an initial impression of your organization. Each generation will have different expectations for their career and different impressions of your organization.
Gen X and Gen Y candidates in particular will expect to have opportunities for two-way dialogue. As a result, they are more likely than previous generations to negotiate for what they want to ensure the work/life balance they desire. For Baby Boomers who are relationship focused, they want to know that they will fit well within your organizational culture and that the people they will be working with are high performers.
Since there are no guarantees that employees will commit to a certain length of service, organizations need to focus not only on getting the right employees, but also on engaging them in order to keep them longer. That’s why it is important that what is said in the recruitment phase is consistent with what new employees actually experience in the workplace.
While Traditionalists and Baby Boomers often give organizations years to change the internal environment to one which is conducive to their expectations, values and needs, Gen Xers and Gen Ys are much less patient. They will generally only give an organization one chance to get the employment relationship right.
By understanding your generational employee markets and using this information to engage all employee groups, your organization can develop people strategies that ensure success and keep you ahead of your competition.
As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that target, motivate and engage a multigenerational workforce. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. She has devoted more than fifteen years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance. Giselle has co-authored two books: Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations and Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills. She has a Master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor.