Adventures in PR Land

Workforce Diversity: Young, Old and In-Between

Posted on: May 23, 2011

As recent college graduates enter the workforce, well established employees remain in the company, and older workers delay retirement, having multiple generations work together is crucial. According to an AARP report, Managing a Multigenerational Workforce, “For the first time in modern history, workplace demographics now span four generations.” Those groups are: the WWII Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Millennial Generation. With their different values and sometimes competing interest, management may wonder how to effectively meet the needs of multigenerational employees. Having an open dialog can help dispel age-related myths. Also, management can focus on each age group’s strengths rather than stereotypes. A company should form intergenerational teams to work on projects. This method can bring multiple perspectives, information, and experience to create a better project.

Let us understand who these different groups are. The WWII Generation, born between 1925-1945, tends to value hard work, personal sacrifice, and hierarchy. Growing up during the Great Depression and WWII, these workers also have a strong sense of community and family. These sentiments translate to company loyalty. However, they may have some difficulty adapting to technology. The Baby Boomers, born between 1946-1964, make up the largest percentage of the workforce. Optimistic and ready to create change, these workers also had a strong work ethic when entering the workforce; they wanted to carve out a new work identity by devoting themselves to their careers while changing the rules in the process. However, they still hold traditionalist views that may conflict with the more informal work values of Gen X and Gen Y. Generation X, born between 1965-1980, are advancing and becoming more influential in companies. Their independence, tendency to ask questions, and risk taking can be great assets to an organization. However, Gen X’ers may be hesitant to commit to one company and was the first generation to insist on a greater work/life balance. Millennials (or Gen Y), born between 1980-2000, are beginning to enter and change the workforce. Their comfort with technology, which earned them the title “digital natives”, has become their main strength. Despite the challenges of establishing themselves amidst a recession and limited entry-level work, these workers remain optimistic that their time will come. They prefer more informal and egalitarian work environments, which may cause tension with their older supervisors.

Overall, management should remember that employees want to contribute and be acknowledged for their contributions. By identifying each generation’s assets and using those strengths to counteract another generation’s weaknesses, the organization can optimize its greatest advantage…. a multigenerational team.

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Sabrina Roberts

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