Excellent workforce engagement advice from our generous sponsor!

TriNet, the cloud-based HR solutions firm, is a generous sponsor of SMCLA’s November panel on Social Customer Service.

For the first time in modern history, workplace demographics now span four generations, meaning that 20-year-old new hires can find themselves working side by side with colleagues who are older than they are by 50 years (or even more).

The oldest, more experienced workers (those born before 1946) are beginning to gradually exit the workforce taking with them vast amounts of knowledge and skill. Meanwhile, the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946−1964 and comprising approximately 41 percent of today’s workforce) are quickly becoming the aging population. An estimated 70 million Baby Boomers, many of them with significant power in organizations, will retire by 2014 leaving shortages of employees to fill high-level professional, managerial and technical positions.

Generation X (those born between 1965−1977 and comprising 29 percent of today’s workforce), and Generation Y (those born in 1978 or later and 24 percent of the workforce) will become dominant participants in the working environment, likely introducing new work norms and values. The transformation of the workforce will impact the traditional roles that each generational segment plays. Generations X and Y, for example, will become the primary service providers, while Baby Boomers will become the primary customers.

Historically, today’s workplace is the most diverse with respect to age that has ever existed. Each of the four generations has very different attitudes and perspectives about working. Hence, as they jostle over positions there will be some challenges as each group attempts to build cooperative and mutually satisfying working relationships.

Adding to these challenges is the unavoidable fact that we will soon see the emergence of a fifth generation.

As work paradigms and technologies change, an even wider gap may emerge between generations. Here are some important questions you need to consider:

  • What will this mean to your organization?
  • What is the generational mix of your organization?
  • How will you leverage the unique strengths of each generation in order to retain your key players, improve productivity and maximize teamwork?
  • Are your managers prepared to lead multiple generations?

When managed effectively, strengths, perspectives, and experiences can bring synergy in the workplace. As a leader, understanding yourself and how your underlying values and characteristics mold your views is paramount to managing multiple generations in the workplace.

Understanding generational influences and characteristics that have been researched and reported by various authors can help you to understand why employees may not be connecting in the workplace.

Although the exact birth dates defining the generations may vary depending on the research source, they are generally broken down into the following distinct groups. When considering the characteristics of each generation, it should be understood that demographics are generalizations that point to trends rather than finite data facts.

Traditionalists, Silent, Veterans…………………..Born between1927 – 1945

Baby Boomers………………………………………..Born between1946 – 1964

Generation X or Xers……………….Born between 1965 and the early 1980s

Generation Y, Millennial, Echo Boomers………Born between1981 – 2000

Gen 2020………………………………………………….Born after 2000

So, why should leaders care if employees from different generations respect and understand each other? When generations fail to communicate or work together effectively, it impacts the organization’s bottom line. Turnover rates and tangible costs such as recruitment, hiring, training, and retention can be negatively impacted. Morale may also suffer which can result in increased complaints and perceptions of unfair treatment or inequity.

Good leaders need to recognize the workplace characteristics and personal desires of each individual. They need to use these traits effectively in order to drive company performance and achieve organizational goals. Fostering retention begins by attracting the best talent, implementing strategies for actively engaging the workforce, and learning what makes employees perform at the highest levels.

Best Practices

  • Identify generational gaps and commonalties, along with communication barriers
  • Implement policies and programs that will allow each individual to contribute to their full potential
  • Review recruiting policies to ensure that you are using social media to attract the best talent (i.e., Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Utilize innovative training methods, such as mentoring and peer-to-peer learning, to accelerate knowledge transfer across the organization
  • Ask employees what they need to be most effective on the job
  • Ensure leaders have the knowledge and skills needed to communicate effectively with all employees
  • Develop an effective and robust succession plan

Whether you text, tweet or actually talk on your mobile or office phone, remember that each of the generations should be valued for the diverse skills, mindsets and perspectives they bring to the workplace. Thoroughly understanding the unique social, political and environmental influences that have shaped their workplace behaviors, values and beliefs is instrumental in creating cohesive and productive work teams and employees.