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Understanding Generations at Work

Understanding Generations at Work


We all hate being put in boxes, myself included, but sometimes it's hard to deny the similarities with certain groups, or cohorts of people. One such way we see these similarities is in our generations. So those people born between certain years are referred to as a certain 'generation'. Why those years? Well social analysis and research shows us that people born between specific timeframes have the same world experiences growing up, and this ultimately helps shape who they are.


In the workplace this can be particularly evident because our early, formative experiences frame how we feel about work, our values towards work and others in the workplace, and the likely approach we will take to our careers, jobs and bosses.


This brief glimpse into the world of generations at work won't answer all your questions or pigeon hole every individual perfectly, however I am hoping this should provide you with enough insight to better understand and appreciate the different approaches, styles, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours you see in your workplace, and maybe this information will help you to be better able to leverage each generations unique strengths.


Lets' take a look at the generations currently in the workplace.


First off, we have our Baby Boomers, those born between around 1946 to 1964, so your employees aged in their 50's through to their 70's. Our Baby Boomers believe that hard work reaps rewards and will often have a few jobs within the same career and quite often within the same company. They value optimism, lover materialism and believe in possibility they were the generation that early on watched man walk on the moon through the very new technology known as a television. As leaders they tend to be very directive, but in terms of what they look for in a leader they value someone who is a thinker.


Next we have Generation X, or Gen X, who were born roughly between 1965 and 1979. Gen X challenged the Baby Boomers with their cynical nature, desire for balance and fierce independence. Gen X believe in working smarter not harder, and in the workplace the generations before them really struggled with this ethos. They tend to stick to one or a small handful of careers, but will often work for several different employers throughout their time in the workplace. They grew up in a time when VHS videos and Walkman's were the latest technology, and the IBM computer was starting to appear. As leaders they tend to coordinate, and from their leaders they are looking for action takers and doers, people who walk the talk.


Following Gen X, we of course have Gen Y, also known as our Millennials, born roughly between 1980 and 1994. Some would say Gen Y were a breath of fresh air in the workplace in comparison to the more 'serious' Baby Boomers and Gen X'ers. Millennials and fun, social and packed full of confidence. Work should be social and they are driven to work that has a real meaning and purpose. They are attracted to organisations that are purpose driven and align with their values. One common trait of our Millennials which has been known to really get under the skin of the generations before them is their belief that they work 'with' an organisation and not 'for' them. One thing is never enough for Gen Y, they will have several careers on the go at the same time. When we think of growing up in a time of phenomenal technological change this generation has certainly enjoyed that. They have seen DVD's, the internet, email and SMS all become prominent in their early formative years. As leaders they tend to guide their teams, and they thrive under supportive leadership types.


Our youngest generation currently in our workplaces are Gen Z, those born between around 1995 to 2009. Gen Z are just hitting workplaces and as such their work styles and values are still being uncovered. What we know is that in a step away from their Millennial counterparts, Gen Z value security and realism. In their work they are looking to gain both security and independence and you will find them seamlessly multitasking working within organisations and pursuing entrepreneurial pursuits.  This generation is growing up with social media being the norm, simply asking Google when they need an answer and everything they need from technology being in the palm of their hand from a young age. We are seeing that our Gen Z's like to work for collaborative leaders and as they form their own leadership style they are drawn to empowering others.


Love to have this info in a handy graphic as a reference guide to help you understand the generations in your workplace? Download your free infographic here.
Author:Kristy-Lee Billett
About: Kristy-Lee has worked in the field of HR and recruitment since 1999. She holds undergraduate qualifications in Psychology, a Masters in Human Resource Management, is an Professional Member of the Australian Human Resources Institute.
Connect via:LinkedIn
Tags:HRSmall BusinessCulturePerformance ManagementStaff retentiontrendsWorkplace

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