Working across generations

in Points of View

Take a look around at your coworkers. Are you all of the same generation or of many different generations? Today’s work force may include workers from up to five different age groups.

Here is a quick overview of the generational groups:

• iGen, aka Generation Z: born 1996 and after
• Millennial’s, aka Generation Y: born 1977 to 1995
• Generation X: born 1965 to 1976
• Baby Boomers: born 1946 to 1964
• Traditionalists: born 1945 and before

There are many generational stereotypes floating around about the groups like; the Gen Z is attached to her cell phone, that Millennial wears flip flops to the office, the Traditionalist never wants to retire, the Baby Boomer is mystified by technology, or the Gen Xer thinks only of himself.

The good news is that the generations may have a lot more in common than not. Marilyn Moats Kennedy, author and management consultant, points out that expectations, rather than age, define workplace attitudes. In addition to her observation that employees of all generations seek more family time, other researchers highlight commonalities across the generations in terms of the desire for meaningful and challenging work. A Generations in the Workplace survey conducted by e-HResources (2004) asked, “What entices you to join an organization?”

The most important features across all age groups were (in order of importance):

• Mission
• Values
• Ethics
• Pay and benefits

Another question on that same survey asked, “What compels you to stay with an organization?” Across all age groups the answers were:

• Challenge (the work itself, interest and variety).
• Being treated with respect by managers and coworkers.
• Working for an ethical organization.

By identifying and building on commonalities, a cohesive, productive, workforce can be formed, making each generation feel valued.

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