The idea of diversity in the workforce is very important to a business’s success and has been a topic for many years now. Diversity can come in many forms and one that often gets overlooked is the different times in which people grew up and the norms during those times. Over the years, how people think, behave, act, and work has evolved with different priorities, wants, and needs. With today’s workforce made up of individuals from all several different generations, it is important for employers to understand each group, what they are pursuing, and how to attract them the team.
Baby Boomers (Born between 1946–1964)
Born after WWII, this group of workers have been known for their strong work ethics, long-serving, and to be loyal employees who are more inclined stick with one organization for the entirety of their career life. Many of those in this group are nearing / at / past their retirement age and will be enjoying the next stage of their life in retirement if they aren’t already doing so.
For those who are still engaged in their work life and not ready to slow down, there is still a lot of value and experience they can bring to any team. To attract talent from this generation of workers, you must understand that they come from a time when there were no phones, or emails, or social media and the internet. They value personal interactions such as a firm handshake or getting to know you and your team on a personal level. They believe in verbal agreements and things that are said should not be taken lightly. They look for job security and stability, a formalized and structured working environment, and to be recognized for their contributions and achievements.
When interviewing a Baby Boomer, a more traditional recruitment process may be best suited from advertising in traditional media outlets (like newspapers, signs / billboards, and television / radio), to accepting paper resumes, to conducting in-person interviews, etc.
Gen X (Born between 1965–1980)
Some of today’s most successful entrepreneurs and technological innovators were born into this generation. They grew up from a world without the many technological advancements that we have today. And seeing the changes and impact from each new technology like the computer and digital innovations, they are fascinated about the possibilities and have become highly independent, tech-savvy, hardworking, and largely self-taught to keep up with the changes. This generation can easily adapt to new technology and challenge themselves to learn what they don’t already know. Because they have been conditioned to self-learning, they prefer an environment that allows for more individual discovery and greater autonomy. They are also comfortable with various forms of communication including in-person, over the phone, text messaging, and online using email.
Gen X workers make up the second highest percentage of the workforce with many positioned in management / leadership roles. It is important for any employer to understand how to bring strong leaders to their teams and what they may be looking for. Most workers from this generation have financial responsibilities, families to take care of, and goals that have piled up as they progressed through their adult life. Things like benefits, RRSPs, flexible work-life-balance, monetary incentives, further education support, etc.
Gen Y / Millennials (Born between 1981–1996)
With Gen X being the second largest percentage of the workforce, Gen Y, largely known as the Millennials group is the largest generation of today’s workforce. Many from this generation benefited from being sheltered by their hardworking Gen X parents who strived for a better future and opportunities for their children. As such, they are encouraged and given the opportunity to take risks and become entrepreneurial with so many opportunities available as the world continues to progress faster and further with technological advancements. With a certain degree of security and safety net provided by their Gen X parents, they can pursue more of their desires, goals, and find deeper purpose in their careers beyond just their financial responsibilities. Often, this means higher career goals and progressions as they are not bound or tie down to jobs that must cover their financial responsibilities. They are attracted to and flourish in a workplace that is technologically driven to help ease their jobs on the most labor-intensive tasks so that they can focus on the bigger picture in pursuit of their goals. In addition, they prioritize work-life balance as they believe in quality of work done, versus the amount of work done (which largely drove the GenX).
Millennials are very comfortable and adapt to technology as they are surrounded by it in all aspects of life. Communication between this group is in large made from their phone through text on different social media platforms and have deviated away from the face-to-face interactions of the past as they view it as a more efficient form of communication. As a result, they are building new relationships and networks using social media platforms and most of their interactions happen behind a screen.
Gen Z (Born between 1997–2012)
With some members of Gen Z entering the workforce in recent years, it is important for employers to understand this group as they will have immediate impact for business in the years ahead. They are born in the age of the internet as they do not know a world not as widely connected as it is today. It is in their homes, in their schools, amongst their friends and social groups, and ultimately in their workplace. Technology is as much a part of their lives and comes as naturally to them as breathing. They are very quick to adapt and learn the newest technology and first to take part in new social media platforms and try new forms of communication including instant messaging and face-to-face interactions on screens.
Growing up, they lived through the 2007-2008 financial crisis and understood the importance of job security. Many are left with a large amount of student debt after graduation and financial responsibilities have taken a front seat once again for this group. They look for stability in their jobs but are also not afraid to make a change when opportunities present themselves. Often, they are attracted to financial incentives and opportunities to grow or opportunities to become financially independent. They are also able to view everything happening around the world in real-time and have more awareness than ever before, becoming more vocal about their social responsibilities. With the world moving so fast around them, they’re accustomed to multi-tasking and need the flexibility to accommodate all aspects of their lives.
As you can see, each generation of workers is largely affected by what is happening at the time and the values instilled to them as children. As we begin to scratch the surface of this new generation of workers in Gen Z, we will have a better understanding of what we can expect from them and begin to speculate what to expect from the latest generation, ‘Generation Alpha’ as they will be the future of the workplace in decades to come.
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