(Originally published in the March 2012 issue of the Nova Scotia Business Journal - Human Resources feature)
At a recent country-wide meeting, our employees were asked to split into three sections of a room. The Millennials to the right. The GenX’ers in the middle. The Boomers to the left. Each group was tasked with brainstorming their interpretation of the other generations to later present their findings to the entire room.
As a GenX’er, I sat smack dab in the middle, finding myself often gazing to the left and to the right, in an effort to locate members of my Halifax team. It wasn’t until this very moment that the reality of managing a multi-generational team truly hit home for me. To physically see the divided room and to then hear each group present their distinct positions and impressions of the others, was quite a confirmation that understanding multi-generational differences in the workplace is invaluable as a manager, no matter how small or large the team.
We could have split the room into four groups that day, as the tendency of the mature worker to remain working well into their sixties has become a true reality. For the first time ever, four generations share the workplace and each has different needs and expectations:
• Millennials (born after 1980) - They are globally influenced, and recognition and flexibility are important to them.
• GenX’ers (born between 1962 and 1979) - This generation is receptive to change and values work/family balance.
• Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1961) - They have a whatever-it-takes attitude, and value high responsibility and challenge.
• Mature Workers (born 1945 or earlier) - This generation believes in living within its means, is less receptive to change, and is very loyal.
Each generation has contended with unique life experiences and influences on a social, economical, political and technological scale. Varying differences in values, philosophies, expectations and communication styles cannot be blamed nor fingers pointed. In fact, on the contrary.
Those companies which commit to understanding the gaps within their teams will have a tremendous opportunity to turn multi-generational differences into a competitive advantage. Specific strategies built to allow flexibility, fairness, encouragement, and learning from one generation to another will only drive employee engagement, cohesiveness, yielding increased production and future value proposition.
The reality of an aging workforce and an ever-tightening labour market is here to stay. Companies must make a concerted effort to understand who comprises their workforce, and proactively take the necessary steps to ensure that no matter the generational difference, each employee is valued, treated fairly, and with respect.
*Read more "Human Resources" feature stories at: http://www.ns.dailybusinessbuzz.ca/Industry-Spotlight/Human-Resources-22691