The Generation Game

Cuddly toy, toaster, decanter.  No, not the TV gameshow that started in the 1970s! I’m talking about the game of managing and motivating the Baby Boomers, Gen Xs, Gen Ys and Gen Zs.  Which one are you?

Right now many businesses have a workforce spanning decades, bringing with it some puzzling questions about how to keep these diverse groups engaged, motivated and valued.  “I just don’t understand them” is a phrase on many people’s lips. So how can people get what they need to be at their best when everyone wants different things from their employer and in life?  Whether you’re an employee or an employer, recognising and understanding generational differences can be hugely beneficial to our culture, bring harmony, and get you ahead of the game.

So you’ve got Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (1965-1979), Gen Y (1980-2000) and Gen Z (2001-present) all with different aspirations, beliefs and values.  Each have grown up in very different environments and experienced mixed fortunes economically.  Technology has played a huge part in generational differences with today’s children never knowing anything but a digital world.  The phrase “a job for life” no longer applies. Many roles performed today wont exist in the future having been automated or become redundant, and businesses that are just a seed in someone’s mind right now will create jobs we’ve never even heard of.  The demand for more flexible working arrangements are higher than ever.  Interesting times.

Whilst this is a challenge for employers there’s lots that we can do as individuals to better understand each other and get on the front foot.

  • Be aware that generational differences exist and commit to some internet research to understand how each are characterised, and help avoid inter-generational conflict
  • Ask your employer if they have a plan for engaging, motivating and valuing their people across all the generations and to share their learnings with you
  • If you’re thinking about a promotion or going for interview, being forearmed with knowledge of how other generations approach life and the world of work may be to your advantage and help build rapport quicker – chances are a different generation will be interviewing you!
  • And if you’re doing the hiring bear in mind that not everyone is driven by salary alone, so be aware of other generational drivers such as flexible working, coaching and mentoring
  • If you’re a line manager or working towards management then strong leadership skills are becoming increasingly important, so perhaps consider some leadership development

We all have different goals, aspirations, drivers and work ethics, and finding a way to work together and thrive together isn’t easy.  But if everyone got to know themselves and each other that little bit better we could achieve great things, and coaching is just one option to help you explore what can be a delicate topic.

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it” – George Orwell

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