Faces of Change: Engaging the Five Generations in the Workforce

RL02-01-2016The business environment is constantly evolving. With each passing year, business leaders must be able to adapt to change in order to maintain relevancy in their fields. One change that impacts all aspects of business, however, isn’t from an outside source, but rather from an inside development.

This change that affects all organizations is generational change. Right now, there are currently five generations in the workforce. That’s five different groups with five different ways of communicating, five different views on work-life balance, and five completely different tactics needed for retention and engagement practices. On top of that, the workforce is becoming younger each year. According to a recent Pew Research study, more than one in three workers are Millennials, and in 2015, this group surpassed Generation X as the largest age group in the workforce. Regardless of whether or not you want to accept it, you need to adapt to be able to engage these five generations. Let’s take a look at the changing workforce and the faces of each generation that are affecting businesses.

Traditionalists (Pre – 1946)

Key takeaways: This group is defined by their strong values of honor, hard work, and respect for authority. They excel at their jobs because of duty and loyalty to the company. Traditionalists favor top-down management, stability, and detail-oriented processes. They’re uncomfortable with change and conflict, and appreciate face-to-face communication. This group is driven by loyalty. Don’t use slang with Traditionalists, and be punctual, show respect, be courteous, honor the chain of command, and be accountable for your actions.

Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964)

Key takeaways: Originally called the “Me” generation, these professionals were defined by the prosperous era they grew up in. Baby Boomers excel in their jobs due to a desire for job advancement. Out of habit and concern for financial security, these hardworking, self-sacrificing individuals are delaying retirement—some until age 80. They want to be viewed as mentors, but are uncomfortable with conflict and differing opinions. This group is driven by ambition. Don’t be politically incorrect with Baby Boomers, ignore their contributions, or tell instead of asking. However, make sure to value their experiences, give them credit for their achievements, and offer perks.

Generation X (1965 – 1978)

Key takeaways: The Latchkey generation, Gen Xers grew up seeing their parents devote much of their lives to work, so they are devoted to work-life balance. They don’t want work to cut into their lives. Adaptable, tech-savvy, and not limited to authority, this generation feels confident moving forward with projects, taking on challenges with a great deal of freedom, and working autonomously. They believe in competency, earned respect, and the idea that fewer rules and flexibility foster creativity. Gen Xers are driven by work-life balance. Don’t micromanage, talk too much, or treat them as slackers. Do give them feedback, help with social skills, and groom them for management.

Millennials (1979 – 1995)

Key takeaways: This easy-to-communicate-with generation thrives on change and doesn’t conform to accepted norms such as the idea that long hours equal greater productivity. Millennials work because they enjoy social interaction and the paycheck that supports their interests outside of the office. They expect performance rewards, salary increases and bonuses, and advancement opportunities. And if they don’t receive these, they don’t mind shopping around for other employment opportunities. They expect a collaborative supervisor relationship, and are focused on results and competence, not tenure. Millennials are driven by self-confidence, optimism, and tenacity. Don’t treat them like children or expect long working hours. Do provide training and mentors, keep them busy, and allow them to multi-task.

Centennials (1996+)

Key takeaways: Known as Centennials, Gen Z, or Linksters, the youngest generation is just now gaining a foot-hold in the workforce. They want recognition for success and need constant feedback and reassurance. They are intolerant of prejudice, and have developed into true team players. Time will tell what this generation will contribute to the changing business environment. But, their entrance into the workforce will create challenges to the art and science of employee engagement. In the coming years, we’ll learn more about this generation and their work preferences.

Faces of Change

As the workplace evolves, leaders need to evolve with it. It’s critical to understand each generation’s wants, needs, and expectations and how organizations engage with each differing group. The five different generations all bring their own challenges, but also offer incredible skills that will assist in the overall success of your business. All you need to do is accept the change, and embrace the faces of this change—your employees.

How do you ensure you are retaining your top talent by successfully engaging the different generations in the workforce? What have you done to change your leadership styles for Millennials and Centennials? Let us know in the comments section below!

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