A generation gap is the official name used for something we encounter quite often in our everyday lives: a difference of opinions, values, and beliefs between various demographics. These differences become the most obvious when you hear arguments about politics, music, movies (just think of Martin Scorsese’s acid remarks about the Marvel Cinematic Universe) , and shopping habits (think of all the things the millennials “killed”). And while they may not be obvious to most, these differences are there at work, too.
Let’s take a look at the three active demographics today and their differences in the workplace.
1. Generation Z
Born after the middle of the 1990s, Generation Z is entering the workforce in large numbers as we speak. This is a digitally literate demographic, familiar with smartphones, computers, and the internet, used to instant communication and easy access to information. While they are “fully digital”, Gen Z-ers value human interaction and teamwork. And most importantly, they value feedback on their work. They value constructive criticism and structure. One of the things to keep in mind when hiring Gen Z-ers is that you should give them clear boundaries and enough freedom. And while many of them don’t think of work-life balance as one of their top priorities, they value it deeply.
One of the things that make Gen Z-ers great employees and colleagues is that many of them don’t see failures as such – instead, they think of them as opportunities to grow and learn.
2. Generation Y (Millennials)
Generation Y or “Millennials” as they are often referred to, are those born between the early to mid-1980s and the mid-to-late 1990s. Growing up, this generation has witnessed the digital revolution, the spread of the internet and the emergence of social media.
Millennials are sometimes called “lazy”, “entitled”, and “disloyal” – this is, of course, not true. What they are is well-informed, with clear tastes that differ from those of the previous generation – this is probably why they have been accused of “killing” everything from textile handkerchiefs to fine china.
Their values are not that different from the generation preceding them: autonomy, recognition, a meaningful contribution to the company they work for, and development opportunities. Unlike Generation X, they are often unimpressed by the size and the age of a company they work for, valuing the company’s reputation much more. They also value feedback – especially feedback given face-to-face by their managers – and learning and development opportunities, too, and all the help they can get to do a better job and become successful.
3. Generation X (Baby Boomers)
Born between the mid-1960s and the late 1970s to 1980, Gen X-ers were exposed to a brand new type of pop culture in their younger years – independent films, grunge music, and hip-hop, to name just a few – plus a whole new set of social values. They are often credited with entrepreneurial tendencies and seen as a happy, active cohort.
Baby boomers are often work-centric, goal-oriented and competitive, while at the same time, confident, and independent. For them, a job is not necessarily a goal but a means to self-actualization. Given their age, they are experienced, skilled, hard-working members of any organization, capable of working independently. At the same time, they are often unfamiliar with the latest digital trends, preferring face-to-face communication to electronic means like instant messaging or even video calls. Like the two other cohorts they share their workspace with, Gen X-ers also like to feel valued in their organization.