The Multi-generational Workplace

For the first time in history, four very distinct generations are working side by side in the workplace. Individuals with different values, different ideas, different ways of getting things done and very different ways of communicating are now occupying the same work space.

Wikipedia says this about communication: Communication is the activity of conveying information through the exchange of thoughts, messages or information, by speech, visuals, signals, writing or behavior.

Communication, both visual and verbal, is the foundation for all daily Interactions. People convey wants, needs, desires and intentions through words and body language. The challenge of effective communication in the workplace lies in the understanding of the differences in those people.

While workforce differences include a number of factors; such as gender, cultural and ability differences – generational differences is a diversity topic that does not seem to get the same amount of discussion or training consideration.

Working effectively and efficiently for maximum productivity, quality and customer service requires an understanding of the differences represented in each team member. Let’s consider some of the basics.

Communication Cycle

Each person has their own set of filters. How they see and experience the world filters every message that they send out or receive, coloring each interaction.
A sender expresses a thought or idea – this message is expressed through their own filter – the receiver also has a set of filters that colors each interpretation of the thought or idea. Finally the roles are reversed and the receiver becomes the sender, with the response passing through the same barriers to complete the communication cycle. This overly complicated definition paints a visual that sheds some light on the importance of understanding team member filters and differences.

Generational Differences
Research indicates that some communication differences are generational. Each age group has underlying values, or personal and lifestyle characteristics, that seem to correspond with each generation.
Family gatherings are a good example of communication within a multi-generational atmosphere. It seems that the more family members at a function… the greater the chances for conflict. It is simply, different generations behaving and communicating differently.
Not every person in a generation will share all of the various characteristics of that generation but the studies do show a general pattern.
Additionally, those born at the beginning or end of a particular generation may have characteristics of the adjacent generation. Of course these are generalizations that do not take the strengths, weaknesses or personality differences into account.

Veterans (sometimes called the Silent Generation or Traditionalists) in general are those born between 1922 and 1945 and still make up a part of the workforce. For some it is a matter of choice, for others a matter of necessity. Their view of respect, authority and technology is often very different from other generations. Experience is respected and obligations are serious to them. They can be intimidated by new technologies and off put by a boss that looks to be twelve years old.
Baby Boomers (sometimes called Boomers) in general are those born between 1946 and 1964 and they make up a large segment of the workforce. They tend to be team players that prefer the face to face meeting and appreciate money and title recognitions.
There is a subset of this group known as the Alpha Boomers that hold a significant place in the economy.

 53% of Alpha Boomers (adults 50-64) are working Full-Time
 In fact Alpha Boomers hold the highest paying jobs
 47% More Likely than the average Adult to hold Top Management positions
 42% More Likely than the average Adult to be C-Suite Executives

Generation X workers (sometimes called Gen X or Xers) in general are those born between 1965 and 1980 and those that require the most work autonomy to be content. This self reliant group likes some structure and direction but expects everyone to contribute in the execution of tasks. They are not afraid to make waves for change or move on to another job to find work fulfillment. Depending on the personality type they can have a tendency toward an entrepreneurial spirit.

Generation Y workers (sometimes called Gen Y, Millennial or Echo Boomers) in general are those born between 1981 and 2000 and are multi-tasking their way into the workforce daily. This new generation is more socially connected than any other group and they tend to find a tribe that is like minded for work satisfaction.

Workplace Relevance
These four generations working side by side can cause challenges in the workplace, the best defense against conflict is education. Beyond the daily interactions of team members, an understanding of generational differences in our customer base is also vital.

Understanding our generational differences can help us to tailor our message for maximum effect, regardless of the task at hand. When we understand HOW someone thinks, we are better able to communicate!
For more information about understanding the multi-generational workplace and staff training, contact Clara Rose.

Clara Rose is the founder of Creative Alliance and co-founder of Nationwide Compliance Alliance. She is a professional speaker, trainer and writer; who specializes in diversity awareness; more specifically, disability sensitivity and generational communication gaps in the workplace.

Additionally, she believes that success is NOT accidental, merely the implementation of a sound strategy and the correct tools.
Educating teams as they work to create a culture of understanding and sensitivity in the work place and equipping professionals for success!

Office: (727) 329-8463
Direct: (941) 284-8640