Published on 20th June 2019
As a member of Generation X I often find myself wondering if I am speaking a different language in the office – my super cool references to ‘Five Star’ and ‘Roland Rat’ leave my team glancing worriedly at each other and asking me if I’m OK and a recent discussion about how I learnt to type on a manual typewriter and the fact that we only had one PC in our school that we all crowded around and took in turns to use was met with total disbelief!
Navigating a multi-generational workplace can be a tricky thing to master – with no mandatory retirement age and an appetite for hiring apprentices, firms within the professional services sector are now experiencing a 5G culture, the likes of which has never been seen before. This difference stretches far beyond age groups; the different generations have vastly different upbringings, values and motivators.
Meet the Generations
Traditionalists: Born before 1945: strong work ethic; patriotic; believe in hierarchical management; loyal to organisations; dependable; independent.
Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to 1964: hard-working; strong work ethic; well educated; value cooperation; like face to face communication; work status equals self-worth; loyal to organisations; family orientated
Generation X: Born 1965 to 1979: independent; critical thinkers; think globally; value diversity; cynical; tech literate (50/50); seeks work/life balance
Generation Y: Born 1979 to 1995: not fond of traditional hierarchy; believe respect must be earned; tech literate; little organisational/brand loyalty; values flexibility; impatient; highly socialised; needs constant feedback
Generation Z: Born 1996 +: Digi-natives, global; individuality; multi-taskers; less focus; little loyalty (organisations or brands)
Whilst at first glance it might look like navigating through a 5G workforce is a total nightmare, there is in fact, far more potential than pitfalls. People from different generations are able to grow and learn from each other, provided they are exposed to each other's ideas and experiences.
These new perspectives can spark new ideas and ways of working. So how can you promote this kind of experience in your firm?
Everyone craves respect, regardless of how old or experienced we are (or aren’t). Make sure you are establishing a culture that respects everyone – just as newcomers need to respect older generations seniority and experience, long-serving employees need to ensure they are respecting the talent and potential of younger generations.
Be flexible and accommodating
By understanding what makes each generation tick, you can start (where possible) accommodating their needs, or at the very least understanding them.
Older generations often have fewer costs at home, so appreciate the chance to work reduced hours in order to enjoy the rewards of a lifetime’s work,
Lots of Gen Xers are now part of the ‘sandwich generation’ which means they are often responsible for both elders and children as well as their work.
Gen Y’s are a sociable bunch, so life outside of work is often as important as their career.
Encourage an open mind
It’s easy to stereotype different generations – if you’re a Baby Boomer, it’s all too easy to think of Millennials as tech-obsessed, Generation X may assume that the Zers lack social skills – try and challenge unconscious bias in your firm, challenge perceptions and attitudes where you can.
Learn from each other
Just as Boomers can pass on their vast knowledge, information and contacts that they have developed over of the course of their careers, Generation Y can help them get to grips with the latest tech – more and more firms are encouraging reverse mentoring to challenge the status quo – could this work in your firm?
Tailor your communication
Each generation has its preferred method of communication – Trads and Boomers like face to face, telephone or written communication; Generations X and Y tend to like emails and texts – Gen Z love communication via social media. Older team members prefer more formal communications, younger team members will often use abbreviations.
Could tailoring the way you communicate with people make a difference to how people engage with you?
Promote project collaboration
Get people of all ages, all levels of seniority and all levels of experience involved in projects, this way you’ll promote the opportunity for everyone to learn and grow from each other, as well as getting viewpoints from across the board.
By being open to the challenges and rewards a 5G workforce can bring, you’ll quickly realise that perhaps we are all more alike than we think!