Among the Generations: A 4-G Workforce

Have you noticed the person sitting next to you might have different work habits, values or ambitions? The workforce is now comprised of four generations (4-G): Matures, Boomers, GenXers and GenYs (also called Millennials). Matures are born before 1946, Boomers between 1946 and 1964, GenXers between 1965 and 1977 and the GenYs after 1978.

Generations differ in their approach to work. We all want to get work done, we just do it in different ways. Sometimes it’s the events that have shaped our lives; sometimes it’s what we need in our lives at a given time that shapes the way we work. You might work with Boomers who work tirelessly in the office on a dedicated task and prefer face-to-face communications. In contrast GenXers or GenYs may prefer to work remotely in coordinated groups using email, wikis, text messages or telephone conferences. Don Tapscott, in his recent book Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, explores the significant workplace changes being wrought by Millennials and those who have grown up immersed in technology.

Of course, our goal is to work together productively and understanding one another’s styles is a big part of doing just that. But it’s no easy task in the 4-G workforce. Respect for different approaches is a good place to start. Team members may specialize in areas where they’re most productive or best suit the team goals. Matures or Boomers may serve as excellent mentors and GenYs may bring a fresh set of eyes or a technology-based approach that is a big help.

Supervising the 4-G workforce requires leaders who can build trust across widely diverse styles, behaviors and individuals. Some may lean towards enforcing policies, others towards autonomy with the hope of an increase in productivity. There are no easy answers, but we are stronger together than we are as individuals. Recognizing the strengths each generation–and each individual–brings to the workplace is a good place to start.

You can share your experiences here on Around the Corner.