Having been a management consultant for several years, it has always bothered me that many companies try controlling an increasingly non-traditional workforce with mainly traditional management concepts and processes. Many of the younger generation move fast in order to make an impact in the organization, most of the middle generation struggle with the company’s mission, and the older generation don’t like change. This situation has stared us in the face for years now; yet, many managers and HR professionals still use outdated carrot-on-a-stick methods to motivate their employees.
As managers and HR professionals, the key to building a successful multi-generational workplace is to understand the differences between each generation. Each of the four generations – Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, Generation X and Generation Y (Generation Z isn’t old enough to work yet) – has had particular experiences that have shaped their choices, outlook, values and work style.
Here are the four generations that (probably) exist in your workplace today and the best way to address each of them:
The Traditionalists (1925 to 1945):
The Traditionalist grew up in a very tough time. They’ve probably experienced the 2nd World War, as well as economic and political uncertainty. These experiences have made most of them exceptionally hard working, exceedingly thrifty, and especially cautious. For them, loyalty is very important for work harmony and seniority is essential to advance in one's career. They fear change and are not very risk tolerant.
They respect authority and hard work, which inclines them to lead through command and control. Traditionalists were the ones who set most of the rules that we still observe in many organizations today.
Remember that Traditionalists:
The Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964):
In the Philippines, Baby Boomers grew up in an abundant and healthy post-war economy. This is an egocentric generation; seeing themselves at the center of the world or as the saviors of the world. Work has become crucial in their evaluation of themselves and others. They actually live to work. For the Boomer, work-life balance is just a novel idea... a rare and distant possibility at best. This has often been a point of tension between them and the newer generations.
Older Boomers have actually followed many of the rules set by the traditionalists; often without question. Many of them occupy top management and executive positions in many of our big organizations today. This being the case, they have possibly (and inadvertently) been the reason that the rules of the traditionalists still exist today.
Remember that Baby Boomers:
Generation X (1965 to 1980):
In the Philippines, four major factors define Generation X: (1) they were the first generation to grow up on schedules or “to do” lists (in Filipino… de-numero ang kilos), (2) they were the first generation to witness the birth of the information age, (3) they grew up with a high-rate of mixed-culture, mixed-race or blended families, and (4) they were also reared in the shadow of the highly prominent Baby Boomers.
Most Gen X-ers view the world with a little cynicism and suspicion and have witnessed their parents’ great sacrifice for their companies and (sometimes twisted) “hero” mentality. As a result, they have become independent (not the value, but rather the act of doing things and making decisions on their own, without asking for help or consulting others), resilient and adaptable; even more so than the Boomers. If Boomers literally “live to work”; Gen X-ers “work to live”. For them, their job is only a means to an end.
Remember that the X-Generation:
Some things to consider when trying to motivate Generation X:
When designing training for Generation X, you should:
Generation Y (1981 to 2000):
This is possibly the next big generation. Generation Y is a significantly powerful generation that has the sheer numbers to influence nearly every stage of life they go into. They were raised during a time of reward and empowerment. Since their parents granted them a certain kind of “freedom” at home, their families have become their safe-haven. They were also encouraged to be opinionated, make their own choices and question everything.
Brought up in a consumer economy, Generation Y has learned to expect that their employers accommodate their “consumer” expectations. For them, it isn’t really about getting more from their employers, but rather, that their employer should give more to all their employees… and they aren’t afraid to express their opinion on the matter. This is why there is high employment turnover for this generation. You can actually witness this in many of our country’s BPOs.
More than Generation X, Generation Y has grown up with computers and the Internet as an important part of their lives. Due to their experience in a global and networked society, they have developed unique skills that have boggled both Traditionalists and Baby Boomers.
Since they are always connected through social networks, instant messaging systems, text messaging systems, blogs, and even multi-player games, they have gained new skills and ways of working together. This has made both Generation X and Generation Y very different from the previous two generations, and may be the reason for the friction that exists between them. The latter two generations challenge the rigidity of the rules created by the previous two generations.
Remember that the Y-Generation:
Some things to consider when trying to motivate Generation Y:
When designing training for Generation Y, you should:
Table below taken from: Overcoming Generational Gap in the Workplace
is the Managing Director of Our-Knowledge Asia and a Business Consultant for Local and Foreign Start-ups, SMEs and Organizations based in the Philippines.