What Makes Workers Happy? A Look at Multigenerational Offices (Part II of II)
Last week, I looked at what qualities older generations of workers look for in a workplace. Especially in regards to mobility, communication, hierarchal structure and more. I covered the Silent Generation (b. 1925-1945) who can still be found in the workplace … through the Baby Boomers (1946-1955) … and one that is gaining in popularity, Generation Jones (1956-1965). Generation Jones takes the latter part of the Boomer generation and the first couple of years of the Gen Xers to form a new label. Since absolutely none of this is scientific and open to interpretation, should you disagree with me, so be it.
Following are the three main generations that make up the majority of the multigenerational office:
Qualities Gen Xers (Born 1966-1980) Look For
The forerunners of the mobile generations to come later, Gen Xers were the first to move from job to job and not dig in to work for one or two companies for most of their adult lives. Since Boomers were their parents, naturally Xers tended to get as far away from the Boomer mentality as possible.
Gen Xers want opportunities to experience many different jobs. They like diversity and global perspectives. Lateral moves can be just as exciting as vertical ones. This attitude exists even within a job with a single company as cross-training is important with them.
Gen Xers want to know that your organization is one of a kind. Make sure your organization plays up to its strength and respects ideas from all levels and ages. Play down any remains of the status quo, bureaucracy or hierarchy structures.
They want to do their work in a setting that can be fun at the same time. Play up any casual days or events you might hold.
Qualities Millennials (1981-1995) Look For
While some people separate Gen Y from Millennials, I’ve put them together here. Millennials—like all younger generations—are the butt of many Boomer, Jones, and X jokes. However, the fact is that they truly are much different than any generation before them. They grew up at the dawn of the technological revolution and only the oldest part of the generation have memories of when the Internet did not exist as we know it today.
Stretch your concepts of scheduling, and focus on getting the work done. Millennials need to know they can arrange their work around a possible unorthodox workweek. Chances are they’ll be out the door at 5:00 on the dot, but they have a hard time totally disconnecting from working.
Offer Millennials older mentors (not a Gen Xer!) who have proven track records of success. Millennials are not impressed by job titles, so don’t use that as your determining factor in picking mentors. They want and demand ongoing training and acquisition of transferable skills. They’ll test authority often, but not as much as Joneses and Xers.
Millennials share with the Joneses the search for meaning in what they do at work. Demonstrate how their work will have an impact on how the organization benefits the community. Millennials also tend to be optimistic and are highly enthusiastic, which is great to energize the rest of the staff.
I personally don’t care for the Gen Z designation for this group and prefer the iGen label. Psychology Today says iGen is where the “i” represents “both the types of mobile technologies being heralded by children and adolescents (iPhone, iPod, Wii, iTunes), plus the fact that these technologies are mostly ‘individualized’ in the way they are used.” Even more than Millennials, this group is so immersed in technology that the two cannot be separated. Social media is everything to this group and they spend an obscene amount of hours on it. Yes, the same could be said of the ‘latchkey’ generation of Xers who were babysat by the television while mom and dad were at work, but that group still had plenty of face-to-face interaction with real people.
While it will still take a few years to see how this generation reacts to higher education and starting careers, it wouldn’t surprise me if leadership will need better coaching and mentoring skills to reach the iGen group of workers.
Leading a multi-generational workforce is difficult, but will be much easier if you keep an open mind and be willing to try new methods and processes to manage people. If I could boil it down to one thing for you to remember, it would be this: Don’t just promise the things I’ve listed above. You must deliver them or you take a chance on losing your best and brightest!