Faces of Change: Generations in the Workplace (Part 2)

The following is part 2 of a video transcription of a webinar presented by Lorraine Medici, the Director of Training & Development for Express Employment. Read Part 1 here. Watch the full webinar here.

Generation X

This is an interesting group, ages 37 to 50. They are our smallest group by population and are known as the Latch Key Generation, and the Forgotten Generation. This was the first generation who are our first gamers. They saw music move from radio to TV, so you could see your bands that you’re listening to on TV. When MTV came out it was a lot of rock n roll bands, and now you’ll see it has transitioned largely since then. This group is known as the Latch Key generation because they saw more divorces than any generation before that time. These kids would go home and have no parents waiting for them. They would find the rock that had the special key and let themselves in and have themselves fix their own snacks, get their homework done, watch some TV (perhaps the Brady Bunch or Partridge Family or Gilligan's Island) and then do some chores without having a parent in the house until 5 or 6 o’clock. Setting that kind of history really had an influence on who they are today. About half of this group have post-secondary education and has learned to be very independent and self-reliant because of having those experiences growing up. 

When we think about how they show up in the workforce today, they are very much into having their autonomy, they do not want to be micromanaged by the Baby Boomers, they like flexibility in making sure that there is a good working environment but also time for themselves after work, whether it is engaging in something with their family or doing something by themselves. They are very tech savvy and don’t believe in paying dues to their company necessarily. They will leave if there is not enough investment into who they are, so they very much want to make sure they’re in a company who values who they are as they're growing throughout the company. They do not see meetings as necessary as their Baby Boomer counterparts. They prefer to get to the point, let’s email - there isn’t necessarily a lot of talking. That whole collaboration teamwork stems from the Baby Boomer mentality, collaborating as a group through the 60s, so this group is very different. 

The reason that we call them the Forgotten Generation is because the majority of the issues that we hear about generally involve the Baby Boomers and the Millennials, so this group kind of gets side swiped, which is unfortunate because they’re really an amazing group, they’re kind of our geeks, they’ve influenced websites like YouTube, Amazon, Google, and they’re really our first gamers. It’s a very interesting group and we want to make sure that we always recognize them. 

Millennials

It’s interesting that this group now is the generation that has seen more national tragedy, and yet is the most hopeful. They are very globally minded in looking at the bigger picture in the world. They are very confident and optimistic despite everything. You think about how many school shootings that have happened; that was never even something that we thought about before this time period, and that has really swayed who they are. This group is also known as Gen Y, and they are the biggest group in the workforce now.

When we think about Gen X’s being technologically savvy, this group is Gen X’ers on steroids. They are gathering information as quick as the speed of light sometimes, it’s really interesting to watch how savvy they really are. One of the things Millennials have been known for is that they like to be praised, they like recognition and noticed for what they’re doing and what they can do. A lot of time Baby Boomers have issues with that, so let’s look at why that might be. 

Most of the Millennials have parents who are Baby Boomers or Gen X’ers, so when you think about why they like to have that praise, think about that time when they grew up they got stickers for showing up to school three days in a row, or goodie bags for going to the dentist. This was a very new concept in helping to build up self-esteem for this generation. So of course, that transition into the workforce is not going to necessarily change. So there is that struggle between Baby Boomers and Millennials because they grew up so differently. One not having that kind of attention, and the other having it. The more that we are open to understanding the time period and the fact that if you’re a Baby Boomer, you might have influenced that generation to be that way. We have to consider how can we get along better in the workforce.

In looking how this group shows up at work, technology is kind of an extension of who they are. It isn’t something that they have to think about, it’s more a part of who they are. They have an amazing ability to acquire information and multitask. Also, Millennials are very well known to see work as a social extension, where they can have interaction and almost have a family and friend setting. That influence is really spreading very strongly, we’re starting to see organizations change the way that they see their people based on the fact that millennials want to see a personal-professional development with their people, where Baby Boomers looked at work much more seriously.  

Baby Boomers, like their Gen X partners, are loyal to the person who invests in them. How can they grow there, what’s going to be there for me in 3 to 5 years, what are the opportunities? And if they don’t have that they’re going to leave, it’s just a part of who they are. Some of the statistics that I’ve recently seen are that Millennials may see between 15 to 20 different jobs because of that, where your Baby Boomers average around 4. This is important for companies to recognize, so as much as you might not like it, it is a fact of how things are now. So we need to be very in tune to realize that this group is not only the largest in the workforce, but it is also the one that has some of the greatest influence on what they want to see happen.

Linksters

When we think about Linksters, they’re also known as Gen Z, they’re going to be 20 years old or younger, so these are folks that are just now entering the workforce. They maybe have a job at a retail store or fast food, maybe an internship in college. They're very influenced by instability. You think about this generation who might not be old enough to understand what 9/11 was, but they definitely have experienced the aftermath. They understand all the games and movies that are all about how to survive in apocalyptic situations. Now we have our superheroes against the zombies, so things are very very different. They have also been very influenced by Social Media. Linksters are influenced globally and are very aware and tolerant of prejudices and often times don’t get why we have them. 

So how do they show up in the workforce? Because they are so young, it’s going to take some time to see what that’s all about. Because this group is so technologically savvy, they crave constant and immediate feedback, and this is truly a result of having every answer available at their fingertips. So if you wanted to know who played bass on the latest White Stripes album, google it! If you forgot which chapters to read for Biology, text a classmate. The days of leaving a voicemail or shooting off an email are probably not something that they would feel very comfortable about doing. Texting is their preferred method of communication by far. 

So this group is going to need a lot of direction. They’re going to need feedback and check-ins, and it’s important to understand that they can process information very quickly. They are even saying that this generation could arguably be some of the smartest of all the generations because of their ability to process information so quickly that they could probably handle very demanding jobs. So again, if we turn our thoughts more into how we can see them as assets, imagine what the opportunities could be for all of them

So how do we learn to play nice together? We have to think about the fact that we might have 3 to even 5 generations working together in the workplace. 

It is a different world, there is no doubt about it. There is no longer a linear way to think about things. If you look back at the industrial revolution shortly after the civil war, when we started to see a ramp up of inventions and creations in technology in the sense of cars and transportation. There was still a mindset of whether you have that information if you have the secrets and the patents, you hung onto it with all of your might. So there might have one or two people at the very top who have that information, so what it naturally created was this pyramid, so the Traditionalists and the Baby Boomers understood that you had to climb up those ranks to get as close as you could to the person that had the information, the expertise, and the knowledge. 

Because of the advent of the internet and the quick ways in which we communicate with each other and process information, that hierarchical organizational chart is really flattening, and this is primarily due to the Millennials, who frankly have access to the same information and knowledge as someone who is 55. So now it isn’t about whether or not you have the information, it’s what you do with it. If you look back into the late 80s and 90s, you had a lot of younger people who said we don’t need to have brick and mortar to run a business, we can do it over the internet. People laughed at them until they became millionaires the next day. The fact is that this is the way of the world. 

Let’s look at ways that we can begin a dialogue on how to take the information of influence from the different time periods that each of the generations have gone through and look at how we can better communicate. My personal opinion is that the whole generational issue is really cloaked by something bigger, and that is how we learn to communicate together. 

  • Minimize your Generational Framework (Mindset)
    • “Wear a different pair of shades.”
  • Build your Skills and Knowledge from Others (Inventory)
    • Embrace the strengths of the other generations.
  • Work to be a Masterful Communicator (Practice)
    • Listen and ask questions with intention.
  • Coach or Mentor your Peers (Give Back)
    • Share your knowledge, expertise, and wisdom with your peers.

The bottom line comes down to personal responsibility. How do you communicate? How do you engage or disengage? Are you socially aware? I’m hoping that you will set aside your judgments about the other generations and have been able to take some time to understand and be aware of the time periods that others experienced.