Most companies feature a wide cross-section of employees, and for the first time ever, four generations working together. As the Traditionalist or Mature generation are slowly retiring, there are still plenty of them in the workforce contributing to a unique workplace dynamic – or generation gap – that must be addressed in the hiring process.
Understanding the multigenerational workplace and how it relates to the hiring process means that companies first need to understand what motivates each generation.
The generation born before 1946 is known as the Traditionalist/Veteran/Mature Generation. These workers are rapidly aging out of the workforce, but they still are an important influence when they are in the workplace. With their strong military connections and memories of the Great Depression, they understand delayed gratification better than others.
The generation of people born between 1946 and 1964, known as the Baby Boomers, is just now starting to retire at its upper levels. However, these people have seen the workplace change the most. They define and measure work ethic based on the time they put in, the hours spent at their desks and the effort they expend. They are also very loyal to their companies, even though they are the generation that first witnessed large-scale mergers and layoffs.
The former “slacker” generation is now today’s middle management. Generation X, which includes people born between 1965 and 1978, was the least supervised generation growing up, babysat by television, video games, and later, computers. This generation isn’t fazed by change; they expect it and are naturally skeptical. They believe that actions speak louder than words, and their loyalty lies with individuals, not corporations.
Born between 1979 and 1995, Generation Y, or the Millennials, currently fill the majority of entry level positions in the workplace. In contrast to their Generation X managers, Generation Y grew up being supervised by their parents heavily. These children were scheduled to their every moment and grew up with every type of technology, and the tail end of this generation does not remember life without cell phones or the Internet.
When these four generations come together in the workplace, the results can be surprising. For example, some originally thought that the Traditionalists and Millennials would be the most disconnected, but the exact opposite is true. Generation Y identifies more with Traditionalists than any of the other generations.
Not surprisingly, Generation X and Generation Y are the most at odds due to the parenting styles they experienced, not necessarily their respective statuses in the workplace. While Generation X is used to fending for themselves, Generation Y is waiting for the next move. And as Traditionalists and Baby Boomers continue to leave the workforce for retirement, the Generation X and Generation Y conflict will need identifying and managing, which can be done in the hiring process as well as on the job.