Working with different generations can be a difficult challenge for you to navigate in your business. Each generation grew up in vastly different cultural and political atmospheres, with stark differences in the available technology. This has provided each with a distinctive mindset can often seem at odds with the others. By understanding the differences between the different generations, you can create an understanding and motivational environment for them. The following observations are largely just generalisations (there will always be exceptions to the rule), but may provide a good starting point.
Gen Z (1995 – 2012)
Gen Z are the youngest members of the workforce, and are only starting to really enter the job market now. As such, we are still learning how they operate in the workforce. This group has grown up with the internet, and as are extremely tech-savvy. They tend to flock to positions where working with technology forms a large part of the role.
Some early trends that have emerged seem to be a need for quick and continuous feedback. This doesn’t come from a sense of entitlement. Rather, they are used to the instant access to information and validation that the internet and social media platforms provide. They also adhere to strong inner moral codes, and value companies that drive or participate in community outreach programmes. They appreciate rewards that afford them the time and means to pursue their own varied personal interests, such as time off or incentive bonuses.
Millennials (1980 – 1994)
Similar to Gen Z, this group grew up in a time of rapid technological process. And while they can remember a time before access to the internet was commonplace, they have been using it for most of their lives. This means that they are incredibly tech-savvy and value companies that are innovative and forward thinking.
For similar reasons to Gen Z, Millennials thrive on quick and continuous feedback and value community outreach. They are also often good at recognising opportunities for innovation and automation. Implementing their suggestions and allowing them to play a key role in updating outdated systems makes them feel valued. As many are seeking a sense of meaning in their lives, they appreciate rewards that provide them with experiences (ziplining tours, concert tickets, etc.)
Generation X (1965 – 1977)
Often referred to as the “forgotten generation” Generation X hasn’t gained the strong reputation the other generations have. They were part of the workforce when computers were introduced and as such, they are very adaptable and willing to accommodate technological changes. They are believed to be the generation that emphasised the importance of a work-life balance and largely subscribe to the mantra “work hard – play hard”.
Generation X is fiercely independent and prefers to have their accomplishments acknowledged privately or in small settings where they have some amount of control over the situation. They value roles that allow them the flexibility to maintain their personal lives comfortably and this in turn allows them to work even harder during work hours. Ideal rewards for workers in Generation X largely include things like extra leave, holiday/getaway vouchers, and flexible hours.
Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964)
Baby Boomers (born in the decades just after World War II) are the most traditional of the generations. As such, it can often feel like the modern workplace is moving away from the values and traditions they are used to. Baby Boomers are a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, due to their extensive experience. They are also knowledgeable about communication and interpersonal skills in a way that the younger generations aren’t due to modern technology.
When rewarding Baby Boomers, it will always be more meaningful when delivered in person. As most of this generation are approaching retirement now, benefits like medical, dental, and retirement annuity are increasingly important, and offering these is incredibly valuable. They also value the traditional workplace rewards like promotions, better offices, and physical awards like plaques.
None of the above is set in stone. It’s still important to get to know your employees on an individual basis. This will give you a better sense of how and why they approach they work that way. But we hope that this gives you a starting point for things to look out for between the different generations.