When we businessfolk discuss diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility (and we talk about it a lot!), we often neglect to mention generational diversity in the workplace and the pros and cons that come along with it.
Most people are aware that with four generations currently in the workplace there are bound to be issues and differences of opinion. Not enough of us consider the upside. As with any type of diversity in the workforce, generational diversity will result in innovation, creativity, and wider skillsets within the company. Varying perspectives and divergent capabilities lead to increased business and productivity and inspire happier employees overall.
So how can companies and leaders embrace generational diversity and leverage it to their advantage? It begins with understanding the different age groups: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millenials, and Generation Z. What do they want? How do they communicate? What do they offer? What drives them?
Of course, we are all unique and most of us don’t completely exemplify our generational stereotypes. But with a baseline understanding of different age groups and their commonly shared concerns, hiring managers and employers can be better prepared to evaluate, educate, accommodate, and integrate individuals into their workforce.
Baby Boomers (born ~1946-1964)
What they’re looking for: Stability, security, and a clear final career path.
What they value: Hard work, loyalty, and experience.
How they work: Traditional, structured, and hierarchical.
What drives them: Financial security, job satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment.
Baby Boomers, so-called due to the post-World War II birthrate spike that began in 1946 are the children of the Greatest Generation. At this point in their careers, they seek stability and job security. They value traditional work structures and prioritize company loyalty. Retirement benefits and a stable income are critical for them, as they aim to build a solid financial foundation for their families and retirement. Job titles and prestige matter, particularly if they have been dedicated to climbing the corporate ladder. Personal fulfillment comes from contributing to a company's growth over the long term.
Generation X (born ~1965-1980)
What they’re looking for: Work-life balance, flexibility, and opportunities for learning and growth.
What they value: Independence, creativity, and diversity.
How they work: Flexible, collaborative, and results-oriented.
What drives them: Personal fulfillment, making a difference, and being able to balance work and life.
Born from the mid-1960s to early 1980s, Gen X values work-life balance above all. They appreciate autonomy and flexibility, seeking opportunities to make an impact while maintaining time for family and personal pursuits. Career growth does matter, but they tend to prioritize gaining experience and honing skills across various roles and/or industries. Job security is essential (for pretty much everyone), but they are open to changing companies for better opportunities. Gen Xers value a collaborative work environment including meaningful connections with colleagues.
Millennials (born ~1981-1996)
What they’re looking for: Purpose, meaning, and opportunities for growth and development.
What they value: Collaboration, social responsibility, and transparency.
How they work: Agile, entrepreneurial, and social.
What drives them: Making a difference, being challenged, and having a positive impact on the world.
Millennials account for the largest piece of the workforce pie and prioritize purpose and personal growth in their careers. They’re seeking opportunities that align with their values, often choosing work that makes a positive impact on society. Professional development, learning opportunities, and rapid advancement are crucial. Like Gen Xers, they crave work-life balance and often lean towards remote or flexible work arrangements. They appreciate recognition, feedback, and a sense of belonging within a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Generation Z (born ~1997-2012)
What they’re looking for: Flexibility, purpose, and opportunities to learn and grow.
What they value: Diversity, inclusion, and social responsibility.
How they work: Digitally native, collaborative, and results-oriented.
What drives them: Personal fulfillment, making a difference, and being able to use their skills to solve problems.
Born from the mid-1990s to the early 2010s, Gen Zers are all about influence, innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship. They seek job roles that offer opportunities to learn and develop a wide range of skills, often across multiple disciplines. They appreciate tech-savvy workplaces that leverage digital tools for collaboration and productivity. Flexibility is essential, as they also desire a blend of in-person and remote work. They seek a sense of purpose and often prefer jobs that allow them to contribute to causes they are passionate about.
To summarize and simplify, different generations approach their jobs and careers with distinct preferences. Baby Boomers prioritize stability and loyalty, Generation X values work-life balance, Millennials seek purpose and personal growth, while Generation Z focuses on innovation and flexibility. Acknowledging these varied aspirations (while avoiding hasty generalization) allows employers to create equitable, inclusive, and adaptable work environments that cater to the needs of employees of all ages.
Spectrum can help your company bridge the generational gap and build a highly-skilled, wildly productive team whether you’re looking for fresh faces from Gen Z or more seasoned professionals. We specialize in quickly filling manufacturing and engineering positions from the production floor to the executive level.
If you’re open to exploring new opportunities, check out our job board here and reach out today to find out how we can help, no matter what generation you identify as.
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