Generational Approaches to Work – part 1 of 5

Date: Mar 3, 2010
By: Tracy Koster

Being in the Human Resource field, I am ever aware of different behaviors and personalities. Today’s workforce is a diverse mix of generations that have their own background and value systems. Understanding their unique perspectives is important in any business and helps as we work side by side.

Here is an overview of the four generations:

Traditionalist (1922-1945) 64-87 years old

Values – Loyalty, dedication, sacrifice, honor, compliance, hard-working

Expectations – Stability, support from the organization during change initiatives

Behaviors – Respectful of authority, loyal to the organization, straight forward work style

Goal – To build a legacy

Baby Boomer (1946-1964) 45-63 years old

Values – Personal growth, youthfulness, equality, ambition, collaboration

Expectations – Ambition and hard work will be rewarded, opportunities to climb the corporate ladder

Behaviors – Challenge authority, loyal to the team, team work

Goal – To put their stamp on things

Gen X (1965-1980) 29-44 years old

Values – Independence, practicality, results-driven, flexibility and adaptive

Expectations – Continuous learning environment, challenging work, work-life balance

Behaviors – Unimpressed by authority, loyal to the manager, focus on results

Goal – To maintain independence in all areas of their lives

Gen Y (1981-2000) 9-28 years old

Values – Confident, optimistic, civic minded, innovative, diversity focused, techno-savvy

Expectations – Continuous change, rapid career growth, personalized experiences

Behaviors – Respect given for competency not title, loyal to peers, focus on change using technology

Goal – To find work and create a life that has meaning

With such different values, behaviors and expectations, it is no wonder that on a team there might be generational conflict. As you manage your work teams, use a blend of personal and group motivation techniques. Focus group members on goals they share, such as completing a project on time, cutting costs, or increasing sales. Customize your approach to the values of each person. Help each generation to recognize the strengths and the differences of others. The younger generations need to understand the history and the experiences of the older generations. On the flip side, the experienced generations need to understand that the younger generations often possess strong and different skill sets earlier in life. For example, a Gen X may want to be rewarded with a vacation day to spend with family; whereas, a Traditionalist may prefer an award and a mention in the company newsletter. Knowing the specific traits and characteristics of each generation group will help you to more effectively manage your team. So stay tuned for follow-up articles on the specific traits and characteristics of each generation group.

The information in this article is intended for general guidance only. Readers are requested to contact their professional advisor prior to acting on the basis of material contained herein.

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