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11 things you need to know about generational differences in the workplace

Editorial Team
14/09/2020 2:13 PM

Workplaces have never been this
diverse. We are witnessing about five different generations in the workplace
today. These are:

  • Traditionalists—born
    1925 to 1945
  • Baby
    Boomers—born 1946 to 1964
  • Generation
    X—born 1965 to 1980
  • Millennials—born
    1981 to 2000
  • Generation
    Z—born 2001 to 2020

This presents new challenges in terms
of managing people, communicating and collaborating. How big are these
differences and what impact do they have on the success of an organisation? Dr
Bea Bourne, DM, a faculty member in the School of Business and Information
Technology at Purdue University Global is an expert on generational differences
and generational response to organizational change. In the infographic below,
she shares her research regarding:

  • How
    today’s talent stacks up by generation, including their defining values,
    beliefs, and worldviews
  • The
    significant historical events that shaped each generation
  • How
    to best motivate and manage workers from each generation

do you manage generational differences in the workplace?

To devise a winning
method of managing generational differences it is important to know just how
significant are generational differences in shaping workplace attitudes and job
satisfaction? In a study titled, Generational differences in workplace
attitudes and job satisfaction: Lack of sizable differences across cohorts
published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, Dr Cucina and his team aimed
to investigate whether there are generational differences in workplace
attitudes and whether Millennials have lower job satisfaction. The research
team conducted two studies using large samples sizes to investigate this.

They found that
Millennials did score slightly less than Baby Boomers and Generation X on some
job attitude items, such as personal accomplishment and enjoying the work they
do. However, when looking at job attitudes collectively, Millennials scored
slightly higher than Baby Boomers and Generation X. The study also showed that
children of Baby Boomers and Generation X did have lower job satisfaction than
their parents. However, this was not a large difference. Another pivotal
finding is that generational differences only explained 2% of the variance in
workplace attitudes, suggesting that most differences in workplace attitudes
arose within, rather than between, generations.

Differences between
generations of employee attitudes about their work and work satisfaction may
not be as significant as assumed. The findings from these studies suggest that
generational differences in workplace attitudes are small, warranting caution
and scepticism when considering the root cause of variances and differences in
the workplace. A more critical and evidence-driven approach to generational
differences is recommended.

should managers do?

A good recommendation
comes from an article titled, Generational Differences At Work Are
Small. Thinking They're Big Effects Our Behavior from the Harvard Business
Review. It states that:

“Managers would benefit
from recognizing that employees often change over time due to varying
priorities, demands, experiences, and physical capacities. These changes can
take many forms. For instance, research has shown that people face different
types of work-family conflict at different stages of their lives, from young
adulthood through middle adulthood and into late adulthood. However, not every
employee within the same age group will have the same experiences at the same
exact time. Therefore, engaging in an ongoing and open dialogue with employees
to discuss shifting needs can help managers keep their hard-working and
experienced employees engaged, happy, and productively collaborating with
others for the long haul.”

Jerry Ndemera is a software
developer and consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants. You can reach
him by calling +263779161795 or emailing jerry@ipcconsultants.com

Editorial Team

This article was written by one of the consultants at IPC

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