Monday, 14 October 2013

Generation Y – Why Pander to Them?

The other day, on a bus from work, I met a friend of mine that I hadn't seen for ages. We were best pals during the high-school times and we used to spend hours chatting about everything that crossed our minds. And so we did this day. Only the subject was different: he was all about his work, colleagues and boss. Obviously, when ones spends almost the whole day at work, such topics somehow automatically gain importance. But examining the diversity of dialogue openers is not my goal. What aroused my curiosity was that his workplace experience was that of a person who works together with several generations under one roof.

It's not surprise that the younger generation is gaining importance in every company, but in this particular case, as he said, there are four generations working together:

  • so called traditionals, a.k.a. people born during 1928-1946;
  • along with Baby Boomers born right after the end of World War II (1946-1964);
  • Generation X, born after the traditionals from the 1960s to 1980s;
  • and Generation Y or the Millennial generation born between the 1980s and 2000s.

Just imagine – people born in completely different periods of human development, under different political influences, facing different sort of challenges in every-day life. And yet, they are all thrown together, trying to do their best for the sake the of company while getting the most from the company they work for in return. I was really curious about the consequences of cooperation between the aforementioned generations. Most of all, I wondered how the youngest generation – the Millenial generation - is perceived by the older ones. As I myself belong to this vigorous generation, I can imagine what the basic mindset look like but I wanted to go much deeper into it. So I did, and I came across several interesting facts:

Baby Boomers are seen as hard-working and productive. Generation X, who might be expected to struggle for their path up the corporate ladder, are perceived as the best team players. Millennials are good with tech matters but can be belligerent and a bit work-shy.

One could say, that these generational gaps are rather natural and there's nothing to be done about it. Actually, this is not quite truth. Millennials, being digitally savvy, have overtaken older candidates in jobs that require a solid grasp of social media. Employers may tend to promote them because of three characteristics they share – their insistence on being treated meritocratically, their appetite for responsibility, and their unwillingness to hang around if they don't get what they want.

Under such condition, I can imagine the challenges Human Resources professionals are facing right now – such as how to motivate older generations - handle or to some extent – rein in the younger generation or how to encourage the the grouping of peers into cross-generational teams. How do these influences, pressures and even conflicts impact company culture and processes? What can be done in order to master every challenge that stems from having a cross-generational workforce? All of these, are topics for broader discussion and should be addressed by someone with far more first-hand experience within the HR realm than I. Therefore I anticipate a great discussion at our Multi-Generational workforce management webinar that will bring together professionals with proven track records in handling several generations in the workplace.

To conclude my thoughts, as you can see, even an old friendship can spur brand-new topics for discussion. Even if they are related to your job.

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