Today everyone is talking about adapting to the Millennials. This ignores the fact the we have three different generations in the workplace. Understanding all three generations is the only way leverage the talents of your workforce. The understanding of the differences of the three generations will also help you understand your customer base and what motivates them.
As I work with my Westchester County NY organizations I constantly hear voices of frustration. A frustrated manager says “The kids today don’t want to work. I can’t get any good help.” Or it might be a manager of a team of professionals complaining about the unwillingness of the younger members to work endless hours. Or it can be frustration from a baby boomer who feels he or she can’t compete with the new workers and the new technology.
And here is yet another quote. “Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders.” That quote is attributed to Socrates. Nothing has changed.
The most successful organizations have learned how to leverage the strengths of the different generations. It is important to recognize that different generations have different opinions and different reactions due to what was going on when they were growing up. That can be a good thing because a savvy manager or savvy organization can tap into the best of each of the three generations. Here are the three generations.
Who are the Baby Boomers? They were born between 1946 and 1964. They were associated with many of the social changes that occurred in the 60’s. They believe in achievement, hard work and long hours. They grew up in an ever expanding post war America. Baby Boomers want respect. Include them in projects and encourage sharing of their vast experience. Allow them to lead projects with others.
Who are the Generation X’ers? They were born between 1965 and 1979. They grew up seeing corporate downsizing and were latch key kids with both parents working. They tend to be free agents and like to manage themselves. They don’t like to be micro managed and want to create their own processes and solutions. They are technically savvy, pragmatic, and competent. They love to be given problems to solve and be challenged. They can easily multi task.
Who are the Millennial’s? They were born between 1980 and 2005. Fortune Magazine described them as the most “high maintenance” generation. They are technologically sophisticated, driven to make a difference, and thirst for positive feedback. They want to know how their work will contribute to the project. They like mentoring, and look for a large commitment up front. They need frequent check ins and full disclosure. They need help with their communication skills and collaborative problem solving.
In summary, every generation has strengths. Harness and engage those strengths to make a more vibrant and prosperous organization. When you understand your employees and your customers they will be motivated by what you have to offer.