Tony King
QED Services

Mind the Gap QED SERVICES

Employers can increase turnover and improve staff morale by acknowledging that people of different generations may have different approaches to work, career and communication.

Our formative years help define who we are and how we view the world. Adults of working age can be divided into four approximate categories - Traditionalists (born 1922-1942), Baby Boomers (born 1943-1960), Generation X (born 1961-1981) and Millennials (born after 1982).


EACH GENERATION HAS ITS OWN SET OF CHARACTERISTICS:

  • Traditionalists tend to value hard work, dedication and sacrifice, have respect for rules, and put duty before pleasure and honors.
  • Baby Boomers are typified by optimism, team orientation, personal gratification, involvement, and personal growth.
  • Xers favour diversity, technological literacy, fun and informality, self-reliance and pragmatism.
  • Millennials, on the other hand, are optimistic, feel a civic duty, confident, achievement-oriented and respecting of diversity.

The generation we grow up in is just one of the influences on adult behaviour, but it can be an important factor in the workplace.

SO HOW DOES THIS AFFECT THE WORKPLACE?

  • When generations fail to communicate, it can lead to lower turnover, higher costs for hiring, training and retaining staff, lower morale, and more grievances and complaints. It can also affect perceptions of fairness and equity.
  • Feedback on job performance might mean different things to different people. Styles that may appear informative and helpful to one generation might seem formal and 'preachy' to another. A Traditionalist might take the attitude 'no news is good news' and require only subtle acknowledgement to boost morale. A Millennial, however, might expect feedback to be available at all times, but appreciates it in all its forms, positive through to negative. This younger group is used to praise and may mistake silence for disapproval.
  • Traditionalists and Boomers may have a tendency to not question or challenge authority or the status quo. This may cause confusion and resentment among the Xers and Millennials, who have been taught to speak up.
  • When it comes to staff training and education, the generations may prefer to learn in different ways, and it is in an employer's interest to acknowledge this. Baby Boomers tend to want to be in charge of their own learning, the Generation Xers often prefer to work independently with self-directed products and the Millennials typically crave interaction with colleagues, as well as clear structure and direction.