Difference between Generation X and YJanuary 26th, 2011 | Job Search, Workplace Resources | 3 Comments »
Every person is a product of his or her environment, so it’s no surprise that the modern work place (consisting of Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y) is a complex mixture of varied work expectations, values, and degrees of tech savviness. Because of this diversity, a clear cut balance needs to be adapted in order for an office containing all three generations to thrive.
Before that happens, we need to truly understand each generation.
Baby Boomers, born between 1946 & 1964, came of age during the early days of the Cold War. As they entered the workforce, they combined their parents’ work ethic with their own budding idealism in hopes of making the world a better place. As a group, Baby Boomers are loyal to a fault. Most are eager to trust their employer and only move to other companies to escape truly reprehensible conditions. For that reason, they respect hierarchy and most decide to climb the corporate ladder from within the company they start with.
Though they’ve been around for major advancements in the workplace, most jumps in business technology occurred after they had already entered the work force. Widespread computer use, cell phones, wireless networks, and The Cloud are all technologies they have adapted to after their formative years. To Baby Boomers, face to face is still the best way for office interactions. The entire idea of telecommuting to the office or remote access is well outside of their wheelhouse.
Generation X, born between 1965 & 1981, saw the rise of two income & single parent families. With their Baby Boomer parents drawn into their work lives, young Gen Xers became independent at a much younger age. They possess a natural self-sufficiency and are resourceful enough to work their way out of any problem. On meaningful challenges, they will relentlessly work to achieve a solution but they are not blindly loyal. They consider themselves free agents and are more than willing to leave a job for a better opportunity.
Unlike the Baby Boomer Generation, most members of Generation X were introduced to digital technology before entering into the workforce. They are drawn to new technology and eagerly pursue any skill that can increase their marketability. Primarily, Gen Xers use technology as a means to end, focusing on how technology as a tool can enhance their lives outside of the digital world.
Generation Y, born between 1982 & 1994, is focused on following their own path. From a young age, the Millennial generation has been told they can do whatever they want by their highly supportive and engaged parents. In most cases, their adolescence was jam packed with scheduled events and technological distractions, making multitasking second nature. On the job, they are focused on achievement more than money, and will only stick around if they feel they are contributing to important tasks. When they work on projects, they expect to have regular feedback to make sure that they are going along the right path.
Having played around with technology from a very young age, the Millennials can instinctively navigate new, high tech equipment without any major learning curve. They passionately immerse themselves in new technology, not only to build their professional skill sets but to enhance every facet of their lives. Generation Y quickly turns to the internet for knowledge, networking, social interaction, and entertainment. Technology is ingrained in every part of their life, so don’t expect them to shut off when they get into the workplace.
Put them together and what do you get?
Working with individuals from multiple generations may seem like a daunting task because no single structure will keep all three generations satisfied on the job. Millennials may love regular input, but Generation Xers might become suspicious of this overinvolved style. Implementing telecommuting options may cause Baby Boomers to feel isolated, but going without them will upset Millennials who feel most comfortable utilizing the full power of the Internet.
To maximize the potential of this hodgepodge culture, a flexible structure needs to be in place. An implacable management style directed toward any one group will alienate more employees than it will inspire. Most importantly, the focus of the office should be on its goals, not the means in which individual workers get there.
The most important thing to do is create a team that understands the strengths of each generation. Encourage older employees to mentor younger ones in ways that promote intergenerational understanding and collaboration. Break down stereotypical walls: Millennials are not lazy, Gen Xers are not disloyal, and Baby Boomers are not stuck in the past. Only when the team realizes that they are all pursuing the same goals, albeit by different methods, can an office reach its potential.
It is also crucial to remember that not all individuals are the same, and relying on the overview of an entire generation to predict the actions of a single employee can often be as reliable as looking at that employee’s horoscope to predict his or her work behaviors. Bottom line: get to know your team. Only then can you customize the proper work environment to fit their needs.
For more resources, check out this article.