Generations in The Workplace? Who Are They and What You Need to Know

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Generations in the workplace? A hot topic currently across the globe. If you are immersed in the management, leadership or recruitment field you will be aware of the rising impact of the different generations we all recruit.

This is especially important in the UK that is gripped by the current skills shortage and a workforce where retirement at 65 is no longer the norm.

 

Why is this important?

In todays connected world our multigenerational workforce is different to years gone by. The impact of a post war population boom, the swinging sixties, personal development, the internet followed by a worldwide recession, has made a difference to many of our values, beliefs and motivations; how could it not?

The question is, have you factored this into the workforce growth plans for your organisation? How will you motivate develop and retain across the workplace spectrum?

In this post, we want to refresh everyone’s knowledge on the different generations and then later in our series we will cover the motivation and talent attraction strategies to consider.

The three main generations we want to cover here are Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y. Gen Z as a group, are still yet taking shape, so for now we won’t focus on their place in the work force.

Here at Lucy Walker Recruitment we talk to candidates across all generations (we will cover each later) daily and it still takes us by surprise the different wants and needs of each.

Though much of the work force moving forward in will be the millennial generation, there are other important generations to consider.

The Pew Research centre in the US mapped out some interesting data, which you can read
here, Pew Research Centre. Though the US population is different to the UK there are many general patterns that emerge.

As a first start, who are the different generations and what do you need to know?

[Please note: Depending which website or resource portal you use the different generations are given different age bands. We have used the most consistent data we have found.]

 

Baby Boomers

Were the first real generation that anyone categorised, way back in the early 70’s. They were easy to label as they originally described people born post the end of World War II. Logical I guess at the time, boys coming home from War and all that!

But the phrase is now used to label people born from the end of the War (1939-45) all the way up to the early 1960s. This generation came in at the start of real change. Telephones and telly’s for all, a man on the moon, holidays abroad and the opportunity to buy our own home. Interesting that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey, billionaires of our time all fall into this category.

Depending on your own company culture hopefully these folks are likely to be the hardworking stalwarts who might be retiring soon. The truth is pensionable age has changed and some Boomers haven’t quite got their financial house in order. It’s likely that they will continue to work well into their late 60’s either through necessity or choice.

 

Gen X

These individuals were born between the early 60’s to early 1980’s. Currently they make up a huge portion of the UK workforce. Originally labelled as, lazy, uncommitted and independent; time has changed them as it does with most of us.

The first labelled gen X group are in their mid to late 40’s and later men and women in this group are in their late to mid-30’s.

This group have gone through seeing their parents’ divorce, while at the same time being a generation of children who arrived home while both parents were still at work.

Add into this the dramatic fluctuations in the economy and everything else that has happened on the planet and this generation is prepared for anything.

The lazy image is no longer relevant. In fact, several studies conducted on workplace habits have made the case that Generation X are resourceful, independent and self-sufficient.

Contrary to what some Gen Y people think, this generation embraces technology and social media.

Here is an interesting fact for you.  The 35-54 age demographic on Facebook make up 31.1% of the user group. That is 56 Million, currently the highest of any age group.

This group are hard workers, steeped in work ethic and want their skills to be used.

 

Gen Y Millennials

Potentially the most impactful generation in the workplace moving forward. These will be our future leaders over the next few decades.

The Gen Y/ Millennial phrase was first developed by William Strauss and Neil Howe the well-known American sociologists. Born between 1980-2000, the members of Gen Y are naturally shaped by technology.

Gen Y candidates ‘values’ are different to the other groups we have mentioned. Here are a couple of things that are important to know.

Results focused

They like to achieve. Brought up by baby boomers and Gen X; Gen Y folks are confident and self-assured. They want to achieve and expect a high level of engagement from their employers. By the way, be prepared to be challenged from the initial interview and interaction you have with them.

Family first

Though these individuals are driven, money isn’t the overarching motivator. Family is important to them and they are looking for organisations that understand their need for a work life balance.

The reality is they are happy to put in the hours provided you are flexible and allow them to take their dad to his hospital appointment, or finish early to go and watch little Sacha in the school play.

Warning: This are the group that see opportunity all around them and if it’s not in their current working environment they will leave.

Remember they have been brought up by a generation who taught them that anything is possible. This point came out strongly in our work place survey (if you would like a copy when it’s published email us here). Though you may think you have a stable workforce, think again particularly if you have a high percentage of your work force that fall into this age bracket.

Look out for my next post in a couple of weeks where I explore further what to consider if you are planning to attract and keep any of these generations in your work force.

About the Author:

Lucy Walker is the Managing Director of Lucy Walker Recruitment , leading North of England commercial recruiter. Lucy has 28 years experience in the sector and leads her experienced team to help companies achieve their growth plans and candidates to further their careers.