The Richmond Register

August 9, 2013

Integration of multiple generations in the workforce

Jennifer Napier

MADISON COUNTY — Have you ever looked around and realized you are witnessing an elite era in American history when it comes to our workforce?

Think about your co-workers, supervisors and administrators, or the individuals who serve you when you shop, travel or dine out. Are you envisioning a diverse group of people? What makes our workforce more unique now than at anytime in the past? Age.

Did you know there are currently four different generations that are employed in the present day workforce: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X’ers and Millennials (aka Generation Y’ers).

For the first time in American history, all four generations are sharing the workplace together. With four generations comes four different sets of attitudes, motivators, ideas, expectations and challenges to face.

Traditionalists are described as the oldest working generation. They are typically associated with enduring the Great Depression, a scarcity of money and resources, a focus on survival skills and having two-parent households with larger family sizes.

Baby Boomers are next, and this generation is associated with being born as a result of men returning from war. Baby Boomers liked to challenge the norm, saw the growth of subdivisions and standardized educations, as well as the implementation of “buy now, pay later” financing and availability of credit.

Generation X’ers are typically referred to as the “latch-key kid” generation because both parents were entering the workforce, forcing the Generation X children to stay home alone or parents to enroll them in childcare options.

Generation X’ers also experienced the fastest transition in technology with computers, Internet and cell phones, making them a more versatile and adaptable population.

Millennials are known as the technology-savvy and collaborative generation. They grew up in diverse households with an increase in single parent homes and blended families.

Working together in groups was normal due to the transition to routine childcare, vast organized extracurricular activities, clubs, and sports. Millennials grew up using technology and view it as a standard global tool for everyday use.

Having four generations in the workplace, who all bring different perspectives, expectations, attitudes and ideas to the table, can be a challenge for most employers. Communication problems and misunderstanding occur frequently because employees don’t have a clear understanding of the potential differences that exist when working in a multi-generational workforce.

If employers don’t take the time to evaluate what motivates and inspires each generation to perform at their optimum level, they’re not likely to get the results they want from their workforce.

There is no “one-size fits all” fix when it comes to motivating or rewarding employees' efforts among a multi-generational workforce.

Each generation carries a different viewpoint when it comes to feedback, work environments, supervision styles, values, methods for communication and a work-life balance.

What unrealized potential or profits is your business missing out on by not coaching team members on how to collaborate and incorporate multi-generational talent and skills into your workforce?