Unprecedented in the history, we will soon have ages spanning from 25-75 in the workplace. Five generations under one roof, working alongside one another.
In five years, Generation Z (who are now entering universities and colleges), will graduate and join the workforce. The youngest of the Traditionalists will be in their early to mid 70s. And due to recent economic events, they may not be quite ready to retire. Also, people are simply healthier, living and working longer.
A Quick Overview
The Traditionalists or the Silent Generation (born 1933-1945) grew up in post-war, Great Depression era.They are conformist and conservative, hardworking and value structure and financial security.
The Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), the most populous group are anti-conformist and anti-hierarchical idealists from the Swinging 60s. They grew up in a world that valued suburban affluence. Highly autonomous, resilient and adaptable.
Generation X (born 1965-1976), prefers to be left alone to get the job done. They are the first generation to grow up with computers and video games, but a good number of them without an intact family.
The Millennials (born 1977-1997), also known as Generation Y, are digital natives who were raised in the most child-centric times in history. Soon to be the largest group in the workforce, they expect structure in the workplace and prefer to work in a team environment.
Then we have Generation Z, who will be ever more reliant on technology and connected to social media than the Millennials. They will choose getting their dream jobs over money.
So, are we prepared for five generations in the workplace? How do we navigate this phenomenon?
Differences due to generational gaps exist. We need to be thoughtful about this, but also mindful, that these are also broad stereotypes. It is true that each generation develops a collective identity, but we all come with our own sets of ideals, values, attitudes and expectations, based on our own personal experiences.
Being born in a certain era does not make us cardboard cut-outs of that generation. Besides, one generation bleeds into another. What about people born on the cusps? Workers from more recently-industrialized countries? There are many other contributing factors to consider.
When we look at the similarities, all generations share workplace goals that lie in inspirational leadership, performance-based recognition, being valued as an employee, a healthier and more sustainable workplace, better work-life balance, and aligning individual values with the authentic missions of organizations. Some are newer ideas, some got a make-over, some are simply good, workplace virtues that have stood the test of time.
Having four generations together in the workforce has been happening for quite some time now. We have all been pushing through with best practices and forward-thinking workplace strategies: transparency, creating connections and constructive collisions, balancing open and closed spaces, social learning and cross-generational mentoring, etc; and we keep evolving these strategies to align with the ever-changing workplace.
Generation Z is going to arrive with their own sets of needs, values and expectations, but they are not landing from Mars. Essentially, we keep doing what we have already been doing. We will keep updating and adapting, in the constant quest for workplaces that foster strong cultures and employee engagement.
We have much to gain from having five generations in the workplace. Imagine the diversity, informal information exchange and innovations that can happen from this generational mash-up. It will be a historic moment in our lives worth celebrating. It is pretty remarkable, when we think about it.
Virgin Unite is working closely with the B Team on the 100% Human at Work Initiative. The initiative aims to build a more equitable, prosperous world for all through work as a source of dignity and purpose, for everyone, everywhere.
As part of this Virgin Unite and the B Team have created a global network of people who are changing work for good.
The following are the five elements of a 100% human company co-created by the network: Respect, Equality, Growth, Belonging and Purpose.
Gensler are part of this network and in this feature share their insights in how our workspaces will need to adapt in the future.
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