5 Generations + 7 Values = Endless Opportunities

Desda Moss By Desda Moss June 20, 2017

For the first time in history, five generations are working side by side, each with different leadership, communication and career development styles.

"It's up to you, HR, to help employees connect and cooperate. You play a huge role in making your workplace welcoming and respectful to all generations," presenter Scott Lesnick told attendees at the SHRM 2017 Annual Conference & Exposition.

Successfully assimilating each generation in the workplace requires that HR professionals make time to get to know their employees, Lesnick said.

"I want you to leave your office. Now I know what people think when they see HR coming, but let them know you are just there to talk. At the same time, you also are doing reconnaissance that will help you know what's going on in your workplace."

For HR, the challenges of blending a mutigenerational workforce include:

  • Doing more with less, which means teamwork is necessary.
  • Showing employees and managers how to communicate with each other.
  • Keeping up with new workplace trends and regulations.
  • Supporting work/life balance to create a happier workforce.
  • Understanding what motivates each generation.

Lesnick offered insights about each generation that can help HR create policies and practices that meet their unique needs. Here's a snapshot of each cohort:

The Silent Generation (ages 71-89):

  • Make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. workforce.
  • Place a strong emphasis on rules.
  • Lead with a "command and control" style.
  • Prefer face-to-face interaction, but communicate best formally (e.g., memos).

Baby Boomers (ages 54-70):

  • Make up 27 percent of the U.S. workforce, but their numbers are declining.
  • Are retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day, but many can't afford to retire and want to work part time.
  • Are inclined to seek contract work after retirement.
  • Tend to be workaholics who get personal fulfillment from work.

Generation X (ages 34-53):

  • Make up 35 percent of the U.S. workforce.
  • Prefer independence and fewer rules.
  • Seek to balance work and family.
  • Want to communicate directly with leaders.

Generation Y, aka Millennials (ages 21-33):

  • Make up 37 percent of the U.S. workforce
  • Take an entrepreneurial approach to work.
  • Prefer direct communication and feedback.
  • Want a social, friendly work environment.

Generation Z (under 20):

  • Make up 1-2 percent of the U.S. workforce.
  • Are likely to be using Twitter to find jobs.
  • Communicate best by smartphone/e-mail.
  • Have large networks but not much job experience. Employers can leverage these networks.

When seeking ways to connect employees across all generations, there are seven values that matter most to workers of every age, Lesnick said:

  1. Feeling respected.
  2. Being listened to.
  3. Having opportunities for mentoring.
  4. Understanding the big picture.
  5. Receiving effective communication.
  6. Receiving positive feedback.
  7. Experiencing an exchange of ideas.

Lesnick urged HR professionals to develop mentoring programs in their organizations to help members of different generations coach and support one another, noting that mentoring increases employee retention and accelerates job promotion.

"What you do is vitally important in helping your workforce understand how the world of work is changing and how your workplace can respond to those changes," he said.


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