Generations at Work

By Irina Nagy

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Attracting and retaining skilled employees has always been a challenging task for employers. Nowadays, the continuously evolving technology, immigration and work patterns that mix employees of different ages, makes finding and retaining the right talent even more challenging.

Several problems can arise from specific traits, mind sets and communication styles of people of different ages. Each generation tends to see the world in a unique way that was formed and shaped by social trends, personal experiences and major historical events that were taking place in the world as these individuals grew up.

Most companies are now managing three generations of employees:

Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964)

Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980)

Millennials (born after 1980)

How should employers relate to them?

The differences

Baby Boomers. They grew up during the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the fast-ascending women’s movement and are the first generation which prioritised work over personal life. Baby Boomers are well-educated, hardworking, and independent. They have a good can-do attitude, excellent work ethic as well as advanced communication and interpersonal skills. They like change and are a very competitive generation (most likely because of the huge increase in population that occurred during the post-war era).

Generation X. They are the ‘me’ not the ‘we’ generation, possess strong technical skills and are more independent than the Baby Boomers. They are typically entrepreneurial and have adapted well to technology as it has changed and evolved. This is the generation that always seems to be questioning authority figures, usually places a lower priority on work and is known for developing the work/life balance concept. They appreciate stability that larger firms can offer but also value flexibility and equality at work. That’s the reason why they’re often attracted to less-bureaucratic businesses.

Millennials. They have been shaped by globalisation and, to them, technology is a given. They are also considered to be the most educated generation of employees today and the most ethnically and racially diverse generation. Millennials are highly socialised and work well in groups, tend to be high-performers but always need and expect feedback, reinforcement and direction at work, just as they have received at school. On top of that, Millennials are looking for meaningful jobs, require a work-life balance and prefer open work environments where knowledge is shared and new ideas are embraced.

Making it work

All businesses need to understand and appreciate the factors which shape each one of the above mentioned generations as, together, they represent a vast pool of talent and skill. Every person brings something to the table so there is much to be gained from having a diverse workforce as well as a wide range of ages present in a company.

All these generations have very different expectations of the world of work and seek different benefits like postretirement work opportunities, balanced work environments or great benefits. Therefore, companies need to embrace change, adopt creative ways to recruit and retain employees and facilitate mentoring between different aged employees.

Here are a few tips which, if followed, can make any company a great place to work for every generation:

  • Identify each generation’s needs
  • Create mixed-age teams and mentoring programs which allow experienced employees to interact with and learn from the younger ones
  • Accommodate different learning styles
  • Give each employee a voice, encourage open communication, acknowledge and support their very different opinions
  • Keep employees engaged with regular educational and training opportunities as well as career advice and support
  • Create recognition programmes and a flexible work culture

Are you looking to recruit or interested in finding a new role? Contact us today on 020 7194 7850 to speak to one of our expert consultants.


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