The other day I was in a conversation with two HR professionals and they both had the same problem: their workplace was littered with people of all ages and it was leading to conflict both between employees and with the employees and the company. It’s understandable there would be conflict. The way people react to the same situations are influenced in many ways including some of the cultural norms that dominated their life’s journey.
We are in an unprecedented time regarding the makeup of our workforce today. For the first time in history, there are four generations working side-by-side in the workplace. Boomers, Gen X, Millennials/Gen Y and Gen Z are all working with Millennials making up the largest group. You can imagine the way a Boomer views loyalty to the company might be different than a Gen Z who is more interested in the company’s non profit partnerships than they are about how many hours of overtime are available.
And a Millennial who is looking for a regular feedback system would probably be frustrated by a member of Gen X who was responsible for letting themselves in after school with their latch key and making their own dinner and isn’t really interested in providing regular feedback. After all, they had to do everything themselves and think everyone else should too.
They key is to approach each employee with authenticity, but the same message won’t work for each group (broadly).
Boomers: This group has a very traditional view of loyalty both for the company and what they believe the company should have for them. When a boomer is laid off from a company they feel betrayed and shocked. Doesn’t the company remember all the late nights and extra work they took on? How could they do this? Authenticity looks like having honest conversations about what’s next for a Boomer. How do they get to the next level, what do they actually have to do. They appreciate a solid plan.
Gen X: Gen X employees view their job as just a job and nothing more. They won’t generally be as likely to stay late or come in early if there isn’t a good reason. However, they are great at learning new skills, working on their own and bringing stability in turbulent times. Authenticity looks like being very clear about what is expected and what they can expect to get out of the relationship.
Millennials: This group gets an undeserved bad rap. It’s been over a decade we’ve been complaining that all they want is to ensure they get a participation trophy. Well, they may want that but authenticity means spending quality time and giving them input on how they’re doing. They want to feel involved and they want to feel their opinion has been heard. Their parents were very involved in their life and expect their boss will be too (in their work life).
Gen Z: There really isn’t anything you can tell a Gen Z about your company they don’t already know. They have researched and discovered everything they need to know about your work and guess what – they have decided you are worthy of their employment. But you better be authentic about your stated mission. If you drift from the WHY behind your work, you’ll quickly find this group disinterested and heading for the doors.
This is just scratching the surface and we did a bit deeper in the video but leading a 4 generation workplace is a challenge that is made easier when you employ authenticity as a regular practice.