Boomers & X’ers versus Millennials – How to Make the Team Work!
In the work place, Boomers (and X’ers) often perceive Gen Y’s and Gen Z’s (often referred to as Millennials) as flighty and unreliable. Always on their phones, never stay long in the organisation, seem to not like structure.
Gen Y’s and Millennials on the other hand often perceive Boomers and X’ers as staid and unnecessarily autocratic.
In a 2017 study by a US professional recruiting firm, Robert Half, they examined workplace differences among generations. The research involved interviews with thousands of company directors and CEOs asking them “In which one of the following areas do you see the greatest differences among your company’s employees who are from different generations?”
The findings for three key areas included:
Communication style. Baby boomers were perceived as more “reserved,” while generations y and z (often just called millennials) tend to favour more “collaborative” and “in-person” means of interacting. This is consistent with other studies showing that millennials, overall, relate far better to a coaching style of management than to a more traditional top-down authoritative approach.
Adapting to change. Generations x and y often view change “as a vehicle for new opportunities,” according to the study, while gen z simply “is accustomed to change and expects it in the workplace.” Though the study didn’t comment on it, I’d expect boomers to be the most jaded and cynical about change, since many of them saw in the course of their own careers a transition from a relatively stable work environment to one where cost-cutting and frequent reorganizations became the norm rather than the exception.
Technical skills. No surprise here. The research examined employee-development-related methods, and found, as one would expect, that boomers and gen x liked to learn via “traditional instructor-led courses or self-learning tools,” while millennials preferred “collaborative and technology-centric” vehicles. Exactly what would be expected given the current omnipresent relationship with technology and the value placed on personal coaching.
“For years employers complained about how the work styles of millennials were disrupting the workplace,” the research noted. “We now know, however, they simply have different outlooks, and the resulting changes from employers, such as new communication methods and enhanced work-life balance offerings, have benefited companies and employees alike.”
Blending the generations
In any workplace, it is beneficial to utilise differences for good (rather than evil!). Different viewpoints can combine to create innovation and creativity – or it can cause disruption and tension. How managers integrate generational differences can make all the difference for their business success.
Older workers can be encouraged to become ‘coaches’ for younger generation workers, sharing their skills in a collaborative way. As well, younger generations can bring their technical prowess to advance processes and work life balance approaches that may not have been thought of before but that could really advance the company forward.
If you require Mentoring support to assist with integrating younger apprentices or trainees into your workplace, we are here to help – find out more.