By: Ryan Piraneo
Today’s workforce is the most generationally diverse this country has ever seen; 97% of the American workforce is almost equally divided between three generations: Baby-Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. Along with the very fresh Generation Z, who’s oldest members are beginning to enter the workforce. The youngest in Generation Z are just beginning kindergarten. The three primary generations are finding themselves working together yet finding it difficult to communicate and get along in the workplace.
For the first time in their history, the Baby-Boomer Generation – those born between 1945 and 1964 – are not the largest represented population in the American workforce. That honor now falls upon the Millennial Generation – those born between 1981 and 1994 – making up for 34% of the workforce per a 2015 Gallup poll. By 2025, that number is expected to climb up to 46% in the United States (the same report estimates that Millennials could represent 75% of the global workforce by 2025).
Organizations need to embrace the idea of these generations working together, allowing them to share their strengths and talents that will bring the best out of everybody. By having an inclusive and active multi-generational workforce, organizations will reap the benefits that each generation brings to the table. Multi-generational workforces serve many purposes including, preventing “Brain Drain”, two-way education, and knowledge share; all of which create win-win scenarios for those involved as well as the organization. Knowing what each generation brings to the table is vital for creating a workforce that is both high effective and engaged.
The Boomers’ mark on the current American workforce is evident to this day. Today, they are the leaders of their organizations or have begun new careers thanks in part to the “Great Recession” of 2008.
They bring with them an entire career of knowledge and experiences. They have seen the entrance of the personal computer, cell phones and the Internet into the workforce. Boomers will serve as the Yoda to any organization; they are very wise and always prepared to perform when they have to. They are very optimistic in their approach to work as well as loyal and good team players. The knowledge Boomers possess is their most vital attribute; the goal for organizations is to have them pass on this knowledge to younger team members as a way to prevent “Brain Drain”. Brain Drain occurs when members of the organization hold onto information that would best suit all members of the organization but does not get shared before they leave.
Create an environment where Boomers can coach or mentor members of Millennials or Generation Z. This interaction with younger team members creates a two-way learning flow where the Boomers can teach ways to best succeed in the working world and instill organizational values while the Millennials and Gen Zs can show how to best incorporate new technologies.
Members of Gen X – born between 1965 and 1980 – are currently in the peak points of their careers and sit in positions higher up on the hierarchy of traditionally organized companies. They got there by being mercenaries, going in, getting the job done and getting out. “I’m here to chew bubble gum and kick butt. And I’m all out of bubble gum” can be used to describe them.
The tools that members of Generation X can bring to an organization include the ability to adapt to an ever-evolving workplace environment. In today’s tech-heavy world where new the name of the game is to be constantly evolving and ahead of the curve, those from Generation X have been in since the early stages of the Internet Boom. They can teach the younger generations how they should remain on their toes and look for opportunities to be an innovator and early adapter. Gen Xers can also help bridge the communications disconnect between Baby Boomers and Millennials. Due to the popularity of social media and virtual relationships, Millennials are increasingly lacking in personal communication skills that are still required in the workplace while Baby Boomers are lacking in the communication skills required on the virtual landscape.
Millennials and to a similar extent, Generation Z, are the fresh faces of the workforce. They come in with eyes wide open and with a plan that they’re going to immediately change not only the organization, but also the world. They don’t believe in the traditional hierarchy that Boomers and Gen Xers are accustomed to. Millennials believe in a matrix style workplace where the CEO and the newest intern should be working side-by-side sharing ideas. They were told “You’re special” and “Connect 24/7”, this truly is a generation that has learned to live in front of a computer screen and are the first true natives to the digital landscape. Highly motivated, inclusive and optimistic, the Millennial generation wants everyone to work together towards a common goal of achievement.
Millennials of course are the future for the success of any organization, so it is up to the older generations to coach them on how to be acclimated to organizational norms. Through coaching, Millennials will get the hands-on and involved learning that they have been experiencing their entire lives. This generation does not believe in just being told what to do, they have to see and feel it for themselves to better grasp a concept. In turn, they will be the early adapters of new technology that they can bring in to the organization and then in turn teach to members of the other generations that may not be as comfortable with using the most up to date technology. Millennials will get everyone working together and can act as the fresh burst of energy and new ideas.
The benefits of having different generations working together will help prevent Brain Drain, keep the organization moving forward on emerging technologies and most importantly, keep members involved in their jobs. Everyone wants to feel included in any organization and by getting everyone working together sharing ideas; we get what Michael Scott of “The Office” calls, a “…win-win-win, we all win”.