People between the ages of 15 and 24 make almost 20% of the world’s population and account for more than 15% of the global labor force. This means the remaining 85% consists of people older than 24 and younger than 70.
The HR professionals are, therefore, faced with the challenge of understanding and managing four generations in the workplace: baby boomers, Generation X, millennials and the first of generation Z. The members of these generations have different value sets, working habits, and expectations from themselves, their colleagues, and management.
Most traditional company policies are written by baby boomers aimed at their own generation, and then the millennials came with their flexible work arrangement and work zones and disrupted the whole thing. The job of the HR manager is to create harmony between them and provide guidance.
Here are a few things to know about these generations, and a few hacks for successful management in this “mess”.
Understand the differences between the generations
Different generations have contradictory demands, expectations, and needs. It is crucial for the HR professional to identify and understand those specific characteristics of the four generations.
The baby boomers (born 1946 – 1964)
This generation grew up in a time of economic prosperity and they were the first to give a higher priority to work over private life. They prefer human touch over technology. They are optimistic, competitive, and workaholics.
Generation Xers (1965 – 1980)
This generation doesn’t live to work, as their predecessors, and they put a lot of emphasis on work-life balance. However, they are independent, work well when challenged, flexible, and adaptable.
Millennials (1981 – 1995)
This generation relies heavily on technology. They are the most educated generation of employees in our time. They are remarkably adaptable, flexible, and ambitious, and have a strong entrepreneurial spirit.
Generation Z (1996 – 2010)
This generation, also known as post-millennials, are a new workforce, which is even more tech-savvy and multicultural than millennials. Their working habits are yet to be established over the years, but we can say now that they are eager to earn money and change the world.
Establish workplace respect
The job of an HR professional is to communicate with all employees when there are newcomers on the way, and with the newcomers also, and prioritize mutual respect as a workplace standard. The young workers need to appreciate the experience and seniority of older generations, but the older generations should understand how younger team members can contribute to their creativity and knowledge. The respect is established through understanding and accepting mutual differences.
Give them a reason to love their job
According to a survey by Harvard Business Review, employees of all ages want meaningful work, they only define the meaning differently. Older generations, for example, value accomplishing career goals, while millennials prize community-like workplace. Try to find out what is the reason the employees get up in the morning to come to work and find a way to implement it without stepping on someone else’s toes.
Share the knowledge
One of the biggest advantages of a multi-generational office is that you have an entire pool of different knowledge, information, and experience. Use that to make the business thrive, by encouraging the post-millennials to help seniors with the digital realm. The Xers can guide their younger colleagues through human-to-human communication. As an HR professional, you can encourage this trade of knowledge and make sure everything is done respectfully. One of the frequently used methods is “reverse mentoring”, a practice where a younger team member starts a “professional friendship” with a senior employee to exchange skills and experience.
Approach people differently
HR’s often use an individual approach to employees, which is a good thing. While you are doing that, you should also have in mind their age, so that you are able to accommodate their needs and preferences and prevent conflict. For example, older workers who are approaching their retirement could appreciate the benefits of part-time work. Younger employees prefer being challenged, without providing them with step-to-step instructions. Millennials want to have a sociable life outside of work and for some of them, you can even consider telecommuting.
Find a common denominator
Regardless of their mutual differences, all employees can unite in one thing and that is the company’s success. It is only when they work together, that goal can be achieved. Furthermore, as an HR professional, you can help them unite around the idea behind the business (e.g. eco-consciousness, helping a certain social group, etc.).
For this vital hack, you need to start from yourself. While it is essential to know the general characteristics of each generation, you should still approach the workers as individuals, because some of them might have different needs than the other members of their group. Furthermore, you should do what is within your power to prevent the employees from reducing one person to the basic features of their generation.
Generational diversity in the workplace carries many pitfalls, but also offers great potential. With the help of HR professionals, people from different generations can work and grow together, and contribute to the company’s success.
Author: Natasha is a lady of a keyboard whose fields of expertise could be summed up in digital marketing, business and IT related topics. Although she is primarily content creator for DesignRush, a B2B marketplace connecting brands with agencies, Natasha is always happy to collaborate with awesome blogs and share her knowledge. To see what she is up to next, check out her Twitter Dashboard.