Workers: The New Generation Is Not So Bad

Young workers get badmouthed a lot by their elders. They’re accused of being lazy, non-committal and in need of constant praise. Now, if only those elders could figure out how to use social media effectively…

Yes, there are differences between generations, and those differences have an impact on the workplace.

Staffing firm Robert Half recently took a survey of Chief Financial Officers (CFO) to probe the issue.

CFOs were asked, “In which one of the following areas do you see the greatest differences among your company’s employees who are from different generations?”

The top answers were “Communication skills” (30%), “Adapting to change” (26%) “Technical skills” (23%) and “Cross-departmental collaboration” (14%).

Only 7% said there were “No differences”.

  • Communication style: Baby boomers tend to be more reserved, while Gen Xers favor a control-and-command style, the research indicates. Conversely, Gen Yers prefer a more collaborative approach to communication, and Gen Zers prize in-person interactions.
  • Change management: According to the research, Gens X and Y tend to see change as a vehicle for new opportunities, while Gen Z is accustomed to change and expects it in the workplace.
  • Technical skills: when it comes to building their abilities, all workers expect employer-backed training.
  • Baby boomers and Gen Xers most value traditional instructor-led courses or self-learning tools; millennials, which include Generations Y and Z, prefer collaborative and technology-centric options.

“Each generation brings unique characteristics to the workforce, which should be embraced,” said Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources. “Too often, managers see these differences as negatives, but building a team with diverse perspectives, insights and strengths can only be a positive, leading to improved products and service levels.”

Robert Half Management Resources offers five tips for managing a multigenerational workforce:

  • Don’t overthink it. Start with the understanding that everyone wants to do a good job and help the company. This commonality lays a strong foundation for relationship building.
  • Customize your style. Staff possesses common attributes, but they also have individual needs. Tailor your management for each person’s strengths, personality and aspirations.
  • Go off-site. Host team-building events outside the office to give employees a chance to get to know each other in a different setting.
  • Let newer professionals take the lead. Institute reverse mentorships, where less-seasoned staff advises and share their insights with veteran colleagues. Also invite team members from all generations to share their unique areas of expertise.
  • Mix and match project teams. Put together groups with complementary skills and diverse perspectives. This can prompt innovation and new problem-solving techniques.

Now, stop picking on people from other generations and start working together. Diversity is strength.

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