offices and job sites now hold a never-before-seen record.
You take the train into the city with coffee in hand and expect a normal day at work. On your way, you pass up a car where an older gentleman steps down wistfully taking his time before entering the office.
Brisking by you, a younger lady, maybe in her twenties, rushes on with a stack of papers in a manila folder.
Reaching your desk, there is a post-it note memo from your boss, thanking you for celebrating their 10th anniversary with the company.
For the first time in history, the workforce contains four generations of people, and will continue to do so in the future. If you’re like most people, you’re unprepared for them all.
How Do We Get Generations?
Being a part of a generation is not a super-glued label, but a sharing of characteristics. Shaped by history, these characteristics take the events a “generation” views and form in response to them. (Schoch)
In other words, we gain our perspectives from our experiences in life. Experiences that we share (WWII, Space Travel, 9/11) all help to shape our lives in general ways.
- Ask a millennial where they were on the day of September 11, 2001.
- Ask an older lady or gentleman where they were on V-J day.
- Ask a fifteen year old about the latest smart phone.
The GenerationsGolden Generation
Sometimes also known as the “Silent Generation.” Shaped by their experiences of a world at war, the Golden‘s saw authority as someone who was owed duty and respect.
Roles are very important in a war, as well as following orders, to preserve unity, movement, and saving the lives of your comrade. Carrying out their roles, they won a global war.
Doesn’t it make sense to follow a leader who is compassionate and unstoppable? The Golden Generation came from a background where authority was owed loyalty and loyalty would be repaid. It is expected that corporations and the government would provide help after the economic boom following World War Two; the idealistic times of the fifties and sixties.
Baby Boomers, or Boomers, lived in the time after World War Two and are generally agreed on by researchers as born between 1946 – 1960.
Likewise, Boomers carry an idealistic can-do attitude, having experienced such feats as Americans on the moon, a crumbling Berlin Wall, and the security of belief in their company and government to support them; a belief passed down by their parents. Boomers tend to view others through their own beliefs about hard work and family values.
Boomers exemplify the typical workaholics and work on the belief that if you put in enough hours into the company, that company, or the government, will take care of you. As such, Boomers operate on a need to know basis and focus on the task at hand with a code of loyalty.
The company is seen as a family in which everyone has their own specific role to play and a hierarchy where seniority weighs heavily in decisions and promotions.
The generation in between the Baby Boomers and the Millenials is Generation X, also known as the Nexter ⇒generation.
Nexters ⇒saw such historical feats as
- new technological advances
- activism and protests
- influx in divorce rates common in present day
Seeing policies and actions challenged by everyday people as well as traditional work adapting to new technology, Nexters ⇒ learned to question reasoning and not blindly accept what someone told them to do or how to behave.
Nexters ⇒became independent, believing in the power of the individual, growing up with the first generation of two full-time working parents.
Ironically, with divorce becoming the norm for Nexters ⇒there was an increase in the importance of family. This is the generation where we commonly see the phenomenon of the “helicopter parent” or the parent who is overly involved with the lives of their children/child.
This attention upon the family greatly influenced the children of the Nexter ⇒generation, the Millennials.
Commonly agreed upon to be within the borders of 1983 – 1999, Millennials place values upon open communication and a healthy supply of feedback, asking about company activities and decisions, in order to learn how they contribute to the big picture.
Does a Millennial want to know where their dollar$ spent as a consumer are going?
Capable of high productivity and pioneering social media, Millennials constantly look for new information from their managers and co-workers. Through constant communication about daily activities, the Millennial generation feels entitled to their own personalities and share their own thoughts and feelings with peers.
work as a means to an end & concentrating highly on a work / life balance, Millennials grew up with wars and repetitive global terrorism in the “most formative” years of their life.
From this, Millennials gravitate towards experiences producing instant gratification and short-term goals. With these short-term goals, Millennials paint a picture, or need a picture painted for them, of clear objectives in order to complete a task at hand.
A product of the closing Nexter ⇒ generation and the beginning Millennials. Still forming, this generation is the new future. Gen Z has never “NOT” known technology, has seen their older cousins and siblings graduate college and move back in with their parents, and will likely see a drastic increase in the poverty gap solidifying.
Predictions have been made about this generation, and only time will tell how history will repeat itself.
Who do you think of when you see the word millennial, how about baby boomer?
Depending on our background we all have different ways that we view the world. Is it noticeable that a hardworking Boomer may view things differently than a work / life balance Millennial?
Do you think it may be hard to connect a loyal Golden Generation to the questioning Nexters ⇒?
And all of it is still very possible.
We have the tools of reaching over the gaps in thought and communication. From experiences in the field, four characteristics are consistent with directly managing different generations, hiring them, and motivating them to buy into your ideas.
The best advice is to gain the perspective of the other person in the conversation or group by drawing upon their experiences. For a deeper understanding about YOUR situation right now, sign up for a quick call before the opportunity to use new tools and tactics slips away.
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Cates, S.V. (2010). Generational management in corporate America: The differences and challenges in management of four generations of working adults. Chinese Business Review, 9(8), 46-54.
Schoch, T. (2012). Turning the ship around with a four-generation crew. Information Management Journal, 1, 25-29.