Generation Gaps In The Workforce

Something I often struggle with on a professional and personal level is generation gaps.  For the first time in history, we have 4 or more different generations in the workforce.  This can cause a lot of friction as each generation has its own set of defining characteristics.  Of course one cannot generalize, but for the most part I have found the characteristics to be true.

Being born in 1986 puts me somewhere between being a GenX-er and a Millennial.  I like to think I have the best of both worlds.  I’m borderline (what not to say in an interview, Vicky)…

Herewith below the basic breakdown of the four predominant generations in the workforce:

  • Baby Boomers: 1946-1964
  • Gen X: 1960’s – 1980’s
  • Gen Y (aka Millennials): 1981 – 1995
  • Gen Z (aka Generation Alfa): 1995 – 2019

Now let’s have a look at these in a bit more detail…

Baby Boomers

There is a lot of information available online about the various characteristics of the generation groups, but I’m going to speak from personal experience.  I have found Baby Boomers to really appreciate face time.

They want to see you in person, they appreciate a voice call and they prefer to put pen to paper over capturing information on digital platforms.  They are hard workers, fiercely loyal and self-assured.   They are not afraid to voice their opinions and will take a stand for what they believe in.  They are also very resourceful.  Unfortunately they are also stubborn to change, and often have a lack of trust in technology.

GenX

Enter the birth of the digital age.  Although most GenX-ers were raised in the analogue times, they were around to experience the introduction of computers and cell phones.  These tools were introduced to GenX whilst at school, giving them ample time to navigate the various technological platforms available.

This also meant that a certain trust in technological advancements had developed, making GenX-ers a lot more open to change than Baby Boomers.  I believe that GenX-ers are the most flexible in the current workforce, as they have experience in both eras.

Millennials

Tech-savvy like you have never seen before, Millennials rely on technology to improve their overall performance (not only in the workplace, but everyday life).  They value quality of life and strive to achieve balance between their family, social and work life.

The definition of success to a Millennial differs to that of a Baby Boomer.  Where a Boomer might take pride in working hard and long hours, a Millennial will be proud of achieving flexibility whilst earning a fair income.  This can sometimes translate to being frivolous and disloyal but actually, a lot of Millennials I know work very hard and strive to achieve good results in order to attain their perfect ideal.

Gen Z

A complete new breed of human in its own right… the children of tech-savvy Millennials.  Just when we thought we had it all figured out.  (Heck, they actually scare me!)

To my surprise, whilst researching this topic, I came across a phrase that has been coined by Gen Z’s to fire back at older generations’ criticisms; “OK, Boomer…”  (At first I thought this kind of cool until I read that it apparently includes anyone over 30… wait, what?  When did I cross the ‘cool’ barrier?!!!)

There’s even a hoodie available, people… everything is a merchandising opportunity nowadays!

Pullover Hoodie

GenZ, I actually resent that!

We have yet to learn how they will influence the workforce, but already we see them glued to their screens even more than we are.  My best friends 7 year old could probably book a plane ticket if you asked her to…  even my 3 year old god-daughter knows how to Whatsapp call me (yet my mother has yet to figure that out).

This blog only skims the tip of the iceberg when comparing the various generations.  The biggest problem I have encountered is communication.  While it is difficult to work together, it isn’t impossible if we all consider each other’s strengths and weaknesses and approach each other with respect.