Did you know that there are five, yes five, different generations in the workforce today? Those include the Traditionalist (Silent), Baby Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y (Millennials), and Gen Z generations. With so many people coming from so many backgrounds, it’s no wonder there are issues in how businesses run, cultures operate, and managers lead.
Think about Frank Sinatra, Elvis, U2, Whitney Houston, Depeche Mode, Nirvana, and Rihanna being asked to collaborate and produce on one single album (I know they all lived at different times, so for this sake, let’s pretend they are all alive at once). As you can imagine, that's a lot of talent. But, there would be some heavy opinions tossed around as they began the songwriting, recording, and selling processes. Their preferences would be drastically different and without focusing more on their strengths it could potentially be a disaster project.
We are asked to do things like this at work everyday. Think about our marketing or design teams. We have different people with various backgrounds coming together to succeed on the same project. We vary in ages, races, religions, genders, talents, etc. But, we are asked to fulfill nonetheless.
There are teams that experience this all along the business spectrum. Both at fortune 100 companies or small start-ups. Every company is facing these sorts of diverse opinions, preferences, and management styles. There are four factors that every organization, manager, trainer, and employee need to know as the workforce continues to shift and we are asked to succeed in the workplace. What I mean by shift is; (1) workforce becomes more diverse, and (2) the workforce hits the “About-to-tip” point, where millennials will soon become the majority of the working population. We must understand what the various generations are, how identity plays a part in the generation concept, recognizing that no generation is right or wrong, and that communication is the golden key.
What Are The Different Generations?
As I said before, there are 5 generations technically earning wages together in the same workforce. Think about Yoda and Luke Skywalker working hand-in-hand with one another. Here are the five generations and their respective birth years and current age in 2018:
Birth year ranges:
The Traditionalists (Silents): Mid 1920’s to Mid 1940’s
Baby Boomers: Mid 1940’s to Mid 1960’s
Gen X: Mid1960’s to early 1980’s
Gen Y (Millennials): early 1980’s to late 1990’s
Gen X: Late 1990’s to 2012
Respective current ages:
The Traditionalists (Silents): Mid 70’s to Mid 90’s
Baby Boomers: Mid 50’s to Early 70’s
Gen X: to Late 30’s to Mid 50’s
Gen Y (Millennials): Early 20’s to Mid 30’s
Gen Z: 12-20 years old
Are you surprised? Let me make this very clear—There are dozens of interpretations of what exact years generations fall into. I’ve selected these after studying many of the various ideas and use these as they are the most general and universal. That way there people who are on the fence don't have to change their entire life around because they thought they belonged to another generation this whole time. That brings up the next point.
What Generation Do You Identify With?
You can be born in 1964 and not know whether or you are a boomer or Gen Xer. That’s why it’s important to understand that your employees, teammates, managers may identify with one generation more than another. Based on someone's experiences, that could vary. But, that is good! People don't have to relate to their specific generation if their past took them a different route.
No Generation is Right and No Generation is Wrong
Each generation has its strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the Traditionalists grew up in an age where loyalty was a must in the workplace. Gen Y grew up during a time of great technological advancement. Gen X faced a more liberating workforce, while experiencing some major U.S and world events. We all share similar experiences with those who identify with our same generation. Together we experience pop culture, sports, world events, history, political crises, etc. We must take those experiences and bring them together, use what we have learned or gained from them, and collaborate.
There are always outliers or those who don’t share or identify with the generation their birth year would label them to be a part of. Behaviors can change over time and our psychology can change depending on circumstance, challenge or trial, etc. But, we do have common denominators that we can utilize to improve and diversify our organizations and teams and those lay within the experiences we share with those in our own generational cohort.
Communication is the Golden Key—It Can Unlock All Sorts of Potential
I have studied and interviewed hundreds of folks from various generations. I have interviewed CEO’s, managers, supervisors, front line employees, retirees, and trainers from dozens of industries. The number one thing they said they needed to help mend this generation gap was communication.
Within the next two years (likely by 2020), millennials will become the majority in the workforce. That means a lot of management changes, leadership transitions, much needed knowledge transfer, etc.
There will be shifts in technological utilization and various changes in regards to how people prefer to communicate. Therefore, it becomes imminent that we prepare and expect the need to over-communicate. By over-communicating, we can assure ourselves that we