Understanding Generational Differences

art-213-01Each generation has distinctive priorities, perspectives, skill sets, and work styles, but these differences, if left unmanaged, can lead to conflict, hindering both productivity and morale.

According to Howe & Strauss (2007), “A generation encompasses a series of consecutive birth years spanning roughly the length of time needed to become an adult; its members share a location in history and, as a consequence, exhibit distinct beliefs and behaviour patterns.

There are at least two compelling reasons for understanding generational differences in workplace values and expectations.

First, with an aging Baby Boomer population and declining birth rates in the West, organizations face a looming talent crisis.

Second, these differences, if left unmanaged, can lead to intergenerational conflict, which hinders organizational success.

Generations of the past saw keen employees burning many a candle at both ends in order to rise through the ranks. By comparison, the up and coming work force place less priority on their career and are instead searching for flexibility that allows balance between work, family and personal time.To draw out these talents, businesses today may have to restructure the career ladder and allow for more of a “team sports” environment where these younger players can feel they are being given a chance on the field from the start.

For the ultimate in “plugged in” employees, look to Generation Z. These workers have grown up with technology as a part of their everyday lives.

Multi-tasking is like breathing to this crowd, and Gen Z makes for very productive workers if you can keep them stimulated. Long projects focused on single tasks are foreign to this generation and boredom in the workplace may cost you employees looking for a challenge.

By better understanding the values and expectations that separate generations, organizations can attract and retain the best talent, minimize conflict and leverage a multigenerational workforce to achieve strategic goals.

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