Generational differences aren’t new in the workplace. No, I am not talking about Grandma, Mum and daughter in the same workplace – I am talking about Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z.
It is widely accepted that these generational differences are evident, and alive and well in the workplace. But perhaps we give too much support to the notion that we should be making allowances. In my view what we should be doing is recognising and accepting that there are generational differences, but continuing to demonstrate good, effective communication, expectations and opportunities for growth. What strengths do each of these generations bring to your workplace – that is the question that should be being asked, and then how do you harness that strength?
Gen Y enter the workforce with an expectation of trust and respect, but unfortunately Baby Boomers are of the notion that any trust and respect has to be earned – it isn’t a given. The ‘Millennials’ have grown up with unconditional support from their parents, teachers, coaches etc, and expect this to be the same when they enter the workforce. The reality is, that any trust and respect does in fact have to be earned. Millennials have also grown up receiving lots of feedback, encouragement and praise and they expect lots of feedback in the workplace.
What about the generational divide that technology creates? Millennials have grown up with technology, they are connected to their cell phones by an invisible thread at the hip and find it alien to think that they have to leave their personal lives at home, when they come to work. They are so used to being connected 24/7 to their social network. So there needs to be a lot of clarification around expectations of social media at work.
What is most important is effective communication and understanding. You will find that employees of any generation, will be loyal and hard working, if they feel valued, listened to and trusted. Employers need to understand where this new technology is taking business today, and instead of making rules prohibiting access to the internet, Facebook, or personal emails / texts etc, they should be working alongside their ‘Millennials’ in the organisation to see how they can make technology improve business.
So, our workplaces are full of Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and some new Gen Z. What are we calling the next generation? Or is the creator of these ‘generational terms’ also of the opinion that after 2012, it doesn’t matter?
I personally will still be around after 2012 and although labelling of different population groups, personality and behavioural styles will still continue – I will adhere to what I believe is most important – good, honest, effective communication, along with trust and respect, will take us where we want to go.