From Baby Boomers to Generation Z, this is the first time in decades we’ll see five distinct age groups together in the workforce. With Generation Z trickling into the working world today, knowing the strengths and capabilities of each generation can be a huge asset ahead of making any recruiting decisions.
If you already have a team of younger staff, hiring an older worker can work in two ways; it can galvanise the team and offer you a considered, world-wise view that can often temper the forward thinking millennial generation, or it can cause a rift in generational thinking.
Of course, generally speaking, most workers are perfectly adept at integrating in an already grounded team, but it is hard to ignore the inherent skills that a particular generation can offer you.
The tech-native Gen-Z are on their way into the workforce bringing with them a lifetime (at least for them) of social interaction through their mobile phones. Entrepreneurial, results-driven and prepared to make their mark on the world with a chai latte in one hand and an app-laden phone in the other, Gen-Z workers will inevitably offer something different than the Baby Boomer who is more reluctant to dive head-first into the world wide web but would be much more willing to build a relationship face-to-face and be much more tactile and grounded in their thinking.
With this in mind, we look at the various age groups in the workforce today and the business benefit each generation can offer that the others can’t.
The silent generation typically born between 1946-64, these workers are likely to be the oldest of your staff.
In their final years of working life, you shouldn’t expect them to stay with you for very long as their retirement age looms. Without being unkind, motivation is likely to be at a low, with many workers simply looking for a pay-cheque until they can claim their pension. Roughly two thirds of baby boomers are now retired and, while they have high expectations after decades in the workplace, they are seen to be cautious, slow to excite and conservative.
Jeanne MacDonald, Futurestep’s president of global talent acquisition solutions thinks there is still a place in the workforce for the baby boomer. Making an impact in the workplace is seen as a priority and MacDonald says, “While many in the Baby Boomer generation are working longer to provide more financial security after seeing their retirement account balances tumble during the Great Recession, their desire to extend their careers is not entirely financially motivated.
“What is often overlooked is the fact the majority of Boomers are highly motivated, enjoy what they do and they provide great experience and value within the global workforce.”
Following the Boomers and preceding Millennials, Gen-Xers are born between 1965-84. Generation X has the benefit of possessing the some of the better characteristics of both the boomers and the millennials as well as the experience of life in the workplace. Seen as the ‘work hard play hard’ generation, they are very industrious. While typically not possessing a comprehensive knowledge of technology, Xers are not afraid to learn what they can and get stuck in, much to the despair of their younger colleagues.
However, they make up a larger portion of the office than you might initially think. “They’re stealthy because they’re not high maintenance,” says Kimberly Cutchall, president and CEO of Accendo International, which helps companies recruit and retain employees. Gen Xers, she said, just get the job done.
The next in line to the the moniker of ‘oldest in the office’, Gen-Xers walk the fine line of relating to most generations and can therefore act as a bridge between ages. Leaning typically to the political right, they remain ponderous and reluctant to move quickly, but also much more likely to engage in social media, dreaming big and chasing results which can bring a happy balance to the office.
Generation Y – Millennials
The most disdained generation, Millennials have had a hard time in the media for all the wrong reasons. Seen as lazy, self-entitled and glued to their mobile, Millennials are regularly portrayed as the villains. Growing up with technology and the sure-footed teachings of Gen-X, they are blue-sky thinkers who see the world with rose-tinted glasses. Driven by social impact, progression and possibly an office nearby to a coffee shop, they can be difficult to manage.
This by no means should make them a luxury hire as they tend to be very ambitious, hard workers. Born from 1985-2004, they are liberal, adaptable and engaged with the future.
One of the most common criticisms aimed at millennials is that they’re self-entitled – possibly down to their parents’ openness to involve them in family decisions as children. Giving them a sense of responsibility from a young age, this kind of parenting has led many young people to feel they should also be able to have similar input in the workplace.
However, this trait can actually be of significant benefit to employers if they approach it in the right way. Give a millennial employee ownership of a particular area (no matter how small), and they’ll feel infinitely more valued, and that their work is having a real impact on the wider business.
Joshua Hebert, CEO of Magellan Jets, says, “Give millennials a boring task without a reason, and they’ll give you boring results. Give them a share in the idea you’re putting into play, however, and they are more likely to turn in work you never imagined.”
Boosting morale and motivation, businesses adopting a team structure that focuses on empowering younger employees are likely to see a happier, more dynamic workforce. This kind of environment also breeds skilled workers, with further benefits down the line when these employees are able to step up to higher positions without hesitation thanks to their experience.
While judging the years of a generation are not an exact science, Gen-Zers are typically anything beyond 1995. Born with a wifi password embedded in their conscience and a tablet in their hands, Gen-Z are the most likely to be your go-to workers for your tech problems.
On the cusp of the working world, these guys are in a prime position to change the way business is done. The arrival of Generation Z in workplaces around the world is being greeted with varying degrees of apprehension, excitement and, in some cases, fear.
In a recent cross-generation study by Ricoh, nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of older workers said they expect workplace tensions to increase when Generation Z – those currently aged 19 and younger – join their company.
The attributes of Generation Z have them painted as gratitude-craving, narcissistic, competitive and disloyal. As the first generation to grow up with social media and smartphones as their dominant modes of communication, they are also digitally adept and expect all technology to run seamlessly.
This expectation of technology however, doesn’t mean they won’t be useful to you. Used to a faster paced way of communicating, Gen-Zers will likely keep you on your toes and push you to greater heights in a faster time.
“Generation Z is a new breed of young worker that distinctly values autonomy and independence,” says Mark Furness, CEO of Essensys. “The rise of digital nomads and the fact that freelancers and contractors will soon become the majority in the workforce, demonstrates the influence that Generation Z, and Millennials, are already having on the workplace.”
“A digitally driven, data-centric world is not science fiction for Generation Z,” says Chris Gabriel, CTO at Logicalis UK.
“They expect to be coding at work and controlling their homes remotely, and anticipate delivery drones, 3D printing and connected cars to be the norm in ten years’ time. Forget bring your own device (BYOD) – this generation plans to build their own technology.”