The Challenge of Four Generations in the Workplace Together

Published: 6 February 2014

This morning I read two articles on developing the talent of Gen Y (those born between 1980 and 1995). One had been written in early 2008 and the other just this week.  Even though they are almost six years apart they said the same thing; a worrying situation in that nothing seems to have moved forwards over that timeframe.

The older of this group are already in the work place and possibly already in senior management / leadership positions (34 years old) whilst the youngest are just in their first year at University. The latter are lucky enough to be leaving education as employment levels are seemingly improving and the older have now experienced their first recession.

What is very apparent in both articles is that many organisations have not adapted their people strategies to deal with the different generations that are now in the workplace simultaneously (as many as four layers from Baby Boomers to Gen Z). Each generation approaches working life with very different expectations and values.  Huge technological, social, cultural and economic change has taken place in recent years, and organisations are now much more global, leaner, flatter and diverse.  How might they ensure that all layers of their workforce are emotionally connected to the corporate and thus remain engaged and retained?

Generation X is now in the Boardroom alongside the Baby Boomers.  Will this lead to a more collaborative and creative development of business strategy? Potentially.  But what happens when Gen Y starts nudging its way in too?  Renowned for being ‘spoilt,’ ‘disruptive’ yet more ‘flexible’ and ‘affluent’, can these three generations manage to rub alongside each other with-out conflict and disharmony?

How do you embrace the greater independence created by the increased technology that Gen Y has grown up with? How do we allow them to grow and nurture when blocked by Baby Boomers at the top table? After all, this is a generation that is ‘in a hurry’ and that won’t ‘wait its time.’

Does your organisation allow for the different generations that could be not only be in the organisation at the same time, but in the leadership team together?  What can you do to support this when perhaps prevalent organisational structures and processes are more suited to Baby Boomers than Gen Y or even Gen Z

Debbie Sutton is a Partner and Head of the HR Practice at Berwick Partners

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