With people living longer and many working well past the traditional retirement age, there are currently five different generations working side-by-side in many companies today.
When a team with a wide range of ages is put together, there will certainly be differences in styles, perspectives, and expectations. However, while they can sometimes create conflict, it is these differences that can make a team stronger, more creative, and more innovative.
Learning to accept and embrace the differences of others can help you develop professionally and learn important lessons from more experienced colleagues.
Work styles by generation
The five generations in today’s workforce include:
- Silent Generation: born 1928 – 1945
- Baby Boomers: born 1946 – 1964
- Gen X: born 1965 – 1980
- Millennials: born 1981 – 1996
- Gen Z: born 1997 or later
The Silent Generation
The Silent Generation only makes up about 1% of the workforce today, but that’s still over a million seniors working well into their 70s and beyond.
Some employees in this generation work just to stay active in their golden years, while others still need to work to support themselves. They grew up during the Great Depression and World War II and built many of the thriving industries we have today. They’re known for their dependability and strong work ethic.
Baby boomers make up about 23% of today’s workforce. The percentage of people aged 62-64 who are working or looking for work has actually increased over the past decade.
Many boomers are choosing to delay retirement because they’re still motivated to work or need to work out of financial necessity. They also have a longer job tenure than their younger counterparts, at an average of seven years.
Gen X is sometimes referred to as the “middle child” generation, as they compete for attention between baby boomers and millennials. While millennials now outnumber Gen X in the workforce, there are still about 66 million Gen X workers today, and they account for 51% of leadership roles worldwide.
“Gen X is your bread and butter. They have worked through more recessions than their parents or grandparents ever did. Most often, they are executive leaders who are on the cusp of becoming the C-class,” said generational expert, Dr. Mary Donohue, in an article for the Huffington Post.
Millennials are the largest generation in today’s workforce. They’re known to have high expectations in their careers and have a tendency to change jobs more frequently than other generations.
Millennials are known to be passionate about corporate responsibility and finding meaning in their work. One study by Cone Communications found that 75% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially and environmentally responsible company.
While many Gen Zs are just entering the workforce, they’re showing some unique traits compared to their older colleagues. Gen Zs came of age during the Great Recession, and thus, tend to be more motivated by money and job security than millennials. They’re competitive and hardworking, with 75% willing to start at the bottom and work their way up.
Promote age inclusion on your team
While more employers have begun recognizing the importance of diversity, most have a long way to go in the way of inclusion. Employees of all ages can only thrive professionally if they feel truly valued and are able to be their authentic selves at work.
Employers have a responsibility to build more inclusive workplaces, but there are things we can all do as individuals to foster more age inclusion on our teams.
Throw out the generational stereotypes
Generational stereotypes continue to influence how people perceive colleagues that are younger or older than they are. Believing a baby boomer can’t understand new technology or a Gen Z is too young to be a leader is unfair and unfounded.
In reality, studies show that age diversity can improve organizational performance and age-diverse teams perform better at making complex decisions.
See others’ differences as strengths
Teams thrive when we embrace one another’s differences and capitalize on the skills different people bring to the table. Older generations can be great mentors to younger colleagues, and younger team members can bring fresh ideas and perspectives.
To create a more age-inclusive team, shift focus from how old someone is to where it should be — their unique knowledge, abilities, skills, and experiences.
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