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A recent article on Workplace Insights has shed some light on what is, perceptionally at least, quite a fuzzy area… the differences (or similarities!) between the various generations who make up many of today’s workplace staff.

The article references a survey conducted by Instant Offices, which asked employees to articulate what is important to them in the workplace, and what therefore makes them feel happy.

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of similiarities and differences in the workplace, let’s give some broad definitions of the generations:

  • Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) still think job security is by far the most important thing, and that being a ‘career person’ shows grit and character
  • Gen X (those born somewhere around the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s) just want to find a good work/life balance and sort of meander their way towards a solid retirement
  • Gen Y, or the Millienials (those born early 1980s to early 1990s) want freedom and excitement, and flexibility that mirrors their technological acuity
  • Gen Z (those born mid-1990 and onwards) face a far more destabilised world, and therefore understandably seek stability and security.


The above is, of course, a broad generalisation, and actually the truth of the matter is that the lines between the generations – particularly between Baby Boomers and Gen Y – are much more blurred than people may think.

When asked within the survey about what would make them happy, some of these blurred lines between the generations became far more evident than one might expect, for example:

  • Although 80% of Millenials want managers to be mentors and Baby Boomers want bosses who are ethical, and Gen X and Millenials think team consensus is the most important thing, across the board all generations are adopting and would prefer a more flexible work environment
  • Within the above, particularly Millenials and Gen X are shunning the standard 9-5 work day in favour of off-site working, hot-desking and flexi-hours
  • Interestingly, Millenials (who have been previously lambasted as being narcissistic and incapable of making a commitment) indicated that they are perfectly happy to stay with a company that openly recognises their work and integrates them into the business at decisive levels
  • Unsurprisingly, all generations also just want to feel valued and appreciated

What does this mean for employers?

Well actually, it’s quite simple – firstly, discard assumptions about ‘generational characteristics’ – from Baby Boomers to Gen Z, each individual will have different aspirations, approaches and perceptions of how they would like to integrate into the workplace.

Secondly, communication is key – both at an individual and organisational level, ensure that your management team actively encourages conversation and debate around how to make the workplace environment one that all staff feel works for them.

Also, use motivational language and actions often to ensure that all your staff feel valued and part of a team that is working towards a common goal. And share the rewards – achieving the goal takes a combined effort that should be amply and broadly rewarded.

Thirdly, play up to each generation’s inherent strengths – 30 years experience for a Baby Boomer is invaluable when passed down to a tech-savvy but recently-employed Gen Z staff member.

Similarly, a digitally-skilled Gen Z may be able to pass on a wealth of new skills to the older generations to help them work more efficiently.

Close the gap between the generations by recognising common needs, celebrating differences and fostering a cross-generational learning environment that makes everyone part of the value chain.

In short, close the gap!

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