Generational Differences


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Overview of the impact of generational differences on the workplace

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  • Hi, this is Anne Sandberg and this presentation is about Generational Differences in the workplace. For the first time in history, we have four distinctly different generations working side-by-side in the workplace. This brief presentation focuses on some of the issues related to generational differences and is designed to make you think about your own attitudes, beliefs and behavior towards others – co-workers, employees, leaders, and even customers. We hope to stimulate some personal insights into this area and get you thinking about how to flex your own style when relating to people from a different generational groups. We will explore strategies for making workplace communication modifications that allow every employee to work to their full potential as a respected and valued team member.
  • First, let’s look at the short-term workforce outlook. It is currently estimated that within just 3 years, there will be a shortage of at least 10 million workers in the U.S. alone. The number of people over 55 will increase dramatically (that is, by about 35%), and the number of people in what we have usually thought of as their prime work years – 35 to 45, will decrease by about 35%. We have a shortage of skilled workers. Not only will there be a shortage of younger workers, but there will certainly be a dramatic shortage of younger workers with the right skills and experience to fill key jobs. Demographics show that, as Baby Boomers retire, fewer young professionals are available to take their place. Across all sectors, the greatest turnover in aging workers is and will continue to in executive, administrative, managerial and highly skilled professional positions. And by the way, although the situation in the US is not exactly the same elsewhere, it is broadly similar in most developed countries around the world.
  • You could say that business is in the midst of a quiet crisis: Baby boomer managers are nearing the age of retirement, and there are fewer Gen X and Y professionals prepared to fill their roles. Put simply, it is a matter of demographics. In the past, grooming replacement talent has been considered more of a “nice to have” than a necessity. Today’s demographic, political and value trends, however, make preparing the next generation of leaders a critical business necessity. Part of the problem has been that simply because Baby Boomers are from a different generation than the younger Gen X and Y employees, they don’t see work in the same way, so walls go up and Boomers become reluctant to share their knowledge and expertise with younger workers who have different attitudes, ways of communicating, and values and are perceived as “hard to reach”, or uninterested.
  • How are generational groups formed? Well, it works like this …. Members of a generation are linked through the shared life experiences of their formative years, such as the economy, world events, politics, heros and villains. These common experiences tie a generation’s members together, creating what sociologists called cohorts . Because of their shared experiences, cohorts develop similar values and approaches to life, which are revealed by everything from their attitude toward saving money to how they raise their children to how they view the workplace. As this slide indicates, there is no doubt that we are experiencing growing levels of generational tension in the workplace, as we have an age range of sometimes as much as 50 or 60 years today and it is expected to increase with widen even more in time with increased longevity and postponed retirements.
  • As this slide indicates, this quote by the writers of the landmark book, “Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Gen X and Nexters in Your Office.” says: “ Never before has there been a workforce and workplace so diverse in so many ways. The mix is stunning … there is a growing realization that the gulf of misunder-standing between older not so old, and younger employees in the workplace is growing and problematic.” It is hard enough getting along with people in this era of “do more with less” and the de-layering of organizations without having to factor in working with people who are half or twice your age.
  • As much as we may try to stay open-minded, we all get “stuck” in our own attitudes about people from different age groups, or generations, seeing them as “strange,” different, or less-able than those from our own generational group. This tendency is a form of stereo-typing and as such, limits our effectiveness, worldview and range of relationships. You may have heard comments like these at some point at work: “ The younger generation has no work ethic” “ Older people are so inflexible and stubborn” “ Young people think they know everything” “ Old people don’t know how to use computers – you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” And so on. Do you tend to think less of people who are from a different generation? Most of us are occasionally guilty of this kind of stereo-typing, as much as we might hate to admit it.
  • It is important to acknowledge that age, or generational group, is only one of many variables that shape who we are as individuals. Many factors contribute to forming us, including personality, upbringing, culture and ethnicity, gender, values and attitudes, education, experience, socio-economic group, and generational group. When we talk about the influence of generational group on how we behave, remember that this concept has limitations and certainly generational group is only one variable that explains people’s behavior, but it is an important one and one that we may not think about as often as some other factors in considering our worldview.
  • Now let’s talk about WHY members of a generational group have so much in common. In addition to coincidence of birth, a generation is also defined by common tastes, attitudes, and experiences. Particularly telling are a generation’s defining moments : events that capture the attention and emotions of millions of individuals at a formative age in their lives. For Traditionalists, World War 2 was the defining event and shaped that generation in ways that subsequent generations will never really appreciate. If you are a Baby Boomers you probably remember where you were when JFK was shot and killed. If you are from Generation X big events for you may have been the Oklahoma City bombing, or the death of Princess Diana. For Millennials, or Gen Y, it will always be 9/11. The music that members of a cohort group hear, the heros they share, the passions they agree or disagree about, and their common history define their generation. Because generations share a place in history – in time – they develop their own unique personalities. These commonalities cut across racial, ethnic and economic differences.
  • These are the generational groups with the date range that is largely agreed upon. If you are born on the cusp of two generations you are called a “cusper” and you probably share characteristics from both generational groups. The Boomer group is a large one in terms of population – about 80 million -- as is the youngest group in the workforce now, Gen Y – about 70 million. The Gen X group is quite small, however – half the size of the group on either side of them – just under 40 million. What this means is that the number of people from this group is insufficient to move into the jobs vacated by departing Boomers. Next we’ll run through some of the characteristics of each of the four groups. There is also a downloadable document associated with this presentation that will tell you more than we will cover in this presentation.
  • A few years ago, Tom Brokaw wrote a book about Traditionalists, the title of which is, The Greatest Generation . Indeed, this generation built modern America. They shook off a depression and negotiated a lasting peace. They raised the largest generation of American children, the Baby Boomers. They built a space program and put a man on the moon. They created miracle vaccines, and wiped out polio, tetanus, tuberculosis, and whooping cough. Today they still hold about ¾’s of all the financial assets in the U.S. Their mindset so dominated our culture that every other generation is compared against them. If you want to understand them better, you can study what tends to motivate and drive them. Traditionalist employees tend to be disciplined, loyal team players who prefer to work within the system. They have a huge knowledge legacy to share, and they embody a traditional work ethic, and tend to value obedience over individualism.
  • Baby Boomers are still an active segment of he labor force though the oldest members of this generational group are starting to retire, some are beginning to think about retirement, others don’t plan to retire any time soon, or even ever! Boomers typically grew up during a time of economic prosperity, suburban affluence, and strong nuclear families with stay-at-home moms. Because there were so many of them, they tend to be competitive, and like to be seen and stand out. As a group, they have tended to be very driven and are seen as responsible for the expectation to work long hours and put in tremendous effort, which the younger generations tend to reject in favor of working smarter, and more flexibly. They have been more likely to be workaholics, and more likely to have put career first, family second. They have been called the “Me” generation, known for their preoccupation with self and continual reinvention of themselves.
  • Generation X grew up in a difficult time in America. It was not a “child friendly” time; divorce has skyrocketed and single parenthood came about. Many moms had to go back to work so Gen X was the first “latchkey” kid generation. That is way this group; tends to value friendship very highly (think of the popularity of the TV show, “Friends”). This group had to become very independent, self-reliant and skeptical to survive. They witnessed mass lay-offs of their parents’ generation and so tend to be distrustful – it is hard to gain their loyalty. It has been said that they are eventually inheriting a country that is flat broke and ecologically bankrupt, with millions of old people to take care of – no wonder they have issues with the Boomers. Some of their other characteristics include despising micro-management, they are strong critical thinkers, want to be involved in decision-making, and are technologically savvy. Gen X’ers expect immediate and ongoing feedback and they are equally comfortable giving feedback to others.
  • The Milennials, or Gen Y, are primarily the children of the Boomers. They are the youngest group in the workforce today, in their 20’s. They grew up during a very child-friendly time and tended to be showered with affection, attention and play dates. Consequently, they are confident, extremely tech savvy since they did not experience a world without computers, and well-networked. They like to stay in constant touch with others, though surveys show that they prefer in-person communication above phone, email, text message, or other means. They are good in teams and groups of all kinds, and enjoy collaborating. The majority of this generation want a mobile way of working, and they want to work in an environmentally friendly setting in an urban or slightly urban area. They highly value flexible ways of working and progressive employers are considering innovative working styles that untether employees from the office.
  • Those are the four groups and a brief review of their characteristics and preferences, but where do we go from here? We want to include all of these groups in our organization to tap the skills and knowledge that all bring to the table. We also want to retain the best and brightest so that they don’t go work for our competitor. This quote by Lancaster and Stillman sums it up nicely: “ It’s not the money that persuades generations of employees to stay: It’s creating the right mix of financial, personal, and cultural factors that produce a sense of fit, loyalty, and opportunity.” That is our challenge.
  • These are the results from a 2006 survey of college seniors, who are now Gen Y employees in the workplace. This is the top 5 list: highest was the opportunity to help people, then benefits like flexible working hours, medical coverage, days off, etc. at 63% along with the chance to do challenging work and the opportunity to acquire new skills and grow their resume. Then came job security. Only 30% said that salary was a an important consideration. That does not mean that pay is unimportant, but given that pay is reasonable and within expected limits, it is less important than many other factors to the younger employee.
  • You may be thinking that this presentation perhaps raises more questions than it answers, but it is the beginning of reflecting upon the issues your organization faces with respect to dealing effectively with generational differences. One conclusion seems certain, however. With the inevitable shortage of young people skilled enough to fill key jobs, it is crucial to retain the ones we have which means we need to look hard at employee engagement and our recognition practices. Further, we need to find ways for older employees to pass their knowledge, skills and experience down to our younger employees – this is a legacy issue. For this to happen, we need to focus on removing barriers to generational differences and encourage open and honest communication in our teams. Perhaps even more important is that we find good ways of developing the people we have and grow our talent in-house. This requires acknowledgement that talent development is a primary role of managers equal in importance to other executive management tasks. Thank you for listening and stay tuned for other presentations about Generational Differences and managing our employees of all types more effectively!
  • Generational Differences

    1. 1. Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace <ul><li> </li></ul>
    2. 2. Too Many Jobs, Too Few Workers <ul><li>Within just 3 years… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>there will be a shortage of 10M workers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li># of people in the labor force age 55+ will increase by 35% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li># of people 35 – 45 will shrink by 15% </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. A Quiet Crisis <ul><li>Business is facing a serious replacement gap </li></ul>
    4. 4. Today’s Workforce <ul><li>Comprised of employees from four, distinct generations </li></ul><ul><li>Each generation has unique views of careers, management, learning and success </li></ul><ul><li>Growing levels of generational tension </li></ul>
    5. 5. AGE MATTERS <ul><li>“ Never before has there been a workforce and workplace so diverse in so many ways. The mix is stunning … there is a growing realization that the gulf of misunder-standing between older not so old, and younger employees in the workplace is growing and problematic.” </li></ul><ul><li>-- Zemke & Filipczak </li></ul>
    6. 6. <ul><li>Are you “trapped” by your generational group? </li></ul>
    7. 7. What makes us who we are? <ul><li>Personality </li></ul><ul><li>Upbringing </li></ul><ul><li>Culture / Ethnicity </li></ul><ul><li>Gender </li></ul><ul><li>Values / Attitudes </li></ul><ul><li>Education </li></ul><ul><li>Experience </li></ul><ul><li>Socio-economic group </li></ul><ul><li>Generational group </li></ul><ul><li>Others? </li></ul>
    8. 8. Importance of defining events <ul><li>Each generation shares what was in the air around them – news events, music, national catastrophes, heroes, and heroic efforts . </li></ul>
    9. 9. Generations <ul><li>Description Birth year </li></ul><ul><li>Traditionalist 1926–1945 </li></ul><ul><li>Boomers 1946–1964 </li></ul><ul><li>Gen X 1965–1979 </li></ul><ul><li>Milennials (or Gen Y) 1980–1995 </li></ul>
    10. 10. Traditionalists now about 15% of the workforce <ul><li>Prefer consistency and uniformity </li></ul><ul><li>Conformers </li></ul><ul><li>Logical </li></ul><ul><li>Disciplined </li></ul><ul><li>Past-oriented & History Absorbed </li></ul><ul><li>Spend Conservatively </li></ul><ul><li>Strong Work Ethic </li></ul><ul><li>Respect Authority </li></ul><ul><li>Prefer more indirect paths of communication </li></ul>
    11. 11. Baby Boomers about 35% of the workforce <ul><li>Tend to be Optimistic </li></ul><ul><li>Competitive / value education </li></ul><ul><li>Like teamwork, but may want to be the leader most of the time </li></ul><ul><li>Spend More & Save Less </li></ul><ul><li>Status conscious </li></ul><ul><li>Efficient, driven, work long hours (and expect others to do the same!) </li></ul><ul><li>Prefer using the phone to other communication channels </li></ul>
    12. 12. Generation X about 25% of the workforce <ul><li>Work to Live (not live to work); work/life balance very important to them </li></ul><ul><li>Flexible, resilient, adaptable </li></ul><ul><li>Independent, self-reliant, resourceful </li></ul><ul><li>Informal / pragmatic </li></ul><ul><li>Skeptical / Survivor Mentality </li></ul><ul><li>Communication is Direct and they like feedback </li></ul><ul><li>May be slow to make a commitment </li></ul>
    13. 13. Millennials, or Gen Y <ul><li>Flexible workplace </li></ul><ul><li>Rapid-fire communication </li></ul><ul><li>High tech options </li></ul><ul><li>Environmentally conscious </li></ul><ul><li>Expect ethical corporate behavior and transparency </li></ul><ul><li>May lack some critical thinking skills </li></ul><ul><li>Confident and innovative </li></ul><ul><li>Diversity is a way of life </li></ul><ul><li>Crave recognition and praise </li></ul>
    14. 14. Retention <ul><li>“ It’s not the money that persuades generations of employees to stay: It’s creating the right mix of financial, personal, and cultural factors that produce a sense of fit, loyalty, and opportunity.” </li></ul><ul><li>Lancaster & Stillman, 2002 </li></ul>
    15. 15. How to Reach the Younger Generations? <ul><li>Top 5 desired job attributes by college seniors: </li></ul><ul><li>Chance to help people: 67% </li></ul><ul><li>Benefits: 63% </li></ul><ul><li>Challenging work: 63% </li></ul><ul><li>Learn new skills: 63% </li></ul><ul><li>Job security: 60% </li></ul>
    16. 16. A Legacy Issue <ul><li>Talent development is a primary role for business managers </li></ul>