Most people recognize issues between the generations in the work place exist, but all too often don’t know what to do about it. It is the first time in history we have four generations working side by side. If you don’t think generations matter, think about this…when asked when and where Kennedy died, Traditionalists (ages 70s and 80s) and Baby Boomers (ages mid 50s-60s) said Dallas, Texas of a gunshot, Generation Xer’s (ages 40s to mid 50s) said Martha’s Vineyard and a plane crash, and Millennials (ages 22-late 30s) said Kennedy who? With only 3% of Traditionalists still working full-time and Baby Boomers retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day in the U.S, Millennials will outnumber all other generations in the workplace in 2020.
These are the five main areas where generational issues cause the most challenges in the workplace: technology, authority, balance, loyalty and entitlement.
It is critical when looking at the different generations to not stereotype and lump people into a category, solely based on their birth year. Each generation brings their own life experiences and learnings to the workplace, and we need to understand and embrace those differences instead of just “putting up” with them.
So, what can we do to embrace and learn from the multi-generations? Here are a few ideas to get you started in bridging the gaps:
- Start a cross-mentoring program and pair up people from different generations.
- Be clear when setting expectations (I promise, if you say to wear black pants for the first day of work, you will have someone show up in leggings! You are thinking, “those are not pants”, and they are thinking “they go from my waist to my ankles…they are pants!”
- Give opportunities for your teams to get connected! Let them get to know each other on a deeper level. They may be surprised about how much they actually have in common!
- Appreciate any job well-done. Younger generations are used to getting participation trophies for just showing up! Recalibrate your appreciation meter and celebrate the small victories! It costs nothing to say, “thank you” or “I appreciate you!”
I am not suggesting that you aren’t already doing many things right! Just keep in mind that generational issues can affect more than meets the eye when it comes to the workplace. I challenge you all to think differently, lead differently, and start somewhere!
To learn more about how millennials are changing the workplace, view the recent Learning Views webinar – Millennials in the Workplace.