June is Youth Month

As we are celebrating Youth Month the focus falls on the younger women in the workplace.  Whilst we need stability in our business and therefore usually depend on the more senior women, we should not forget that the younger groups bring specific qualities that can have a huge impact in the business.

To find equilibrium (especially when the generation gap in the workplace is quite extensive) can be somewhat challenging. Dimakatso Moloantoa presented a webinar on how to approach the differences between the generations in the workplace environment. The actual webinar is available on our youtube channel for you.

But let me first explain the generations.

Baby Boomers (born from 1946 -1964)are driven, they treasure stability and they want to retire financially secure. They are also willing to work longer hours.

Generation X (born from 1965 -1976) work smart and effectively, they are self-reliant and want structure, always aim to complete entire projects and like having a fun and positive workplace.

Generation Y (born from 1977 – 1995) or so called Millennials, are not afraid of risks, have ambition, ask ‘what’s next’”, are achievement orientated, collaborate with ease and love diversity (the more people, the better).

Generation Z,  the post-millennials, (born 1996 – 2012) wants to balance personal life and work, ask ‘what can you learn’, they are flexible, they do not just multitask but work with a clear objective and they are keen on taking risks.

The main difference between the generations lies in their outlook on life and work, opinions, beliefs, skills, attitudes, and behaviors among the older generations and the younger generations. Open communication is required to bridge this gap, but it is not always easy to achieve. A group with similar values and attitudes has smoother communication and other dynamics where multiple generations in a group present challenges in the workplace.

1. Who are the Millennials?

Millennials were born and raised with different inciting incidents (9/11), different economic factors (2008 financial market crash) and a different culture (helicopter parenting, car seats and more.)

Where baby boomers are loyal to their company and Generation X are more loyal to their careers and creating a sustainable life, millennials’ loyalty lies with their community. They see work as a calling instead of a job, or even a career.

Although subtle, this distinction does change the expectations that millennials have of their jobs. Millennials show up looking make an impact, be part of a team and do meaningful work — work that makes a difference in the world.

2. The Gen X-pectation

People who fall in the Generation X bracket, born before 1984, have clearly defined goals and expectations. Thus they have a better idea of what they want and where they are heading in life. They are also more concerned about the experience the have when doing business.

Generation-X’s feel more secure when they understand the company structure and its rules are clear and understandable to them. They love to take the lead on projects, with a focus on balance between face=to-face, paper and online correspondence and interaction. Collaboration are also key factors that makes their work environment more suitable to them.

3. The Millennial difference

According to some sources the millennial and post-millennial spend an average of 14 hours a day on screen time.  This includes the TV, phone or computer and therefore it is far easier to communicate with them through online channels. The internet is a huge time-saver for them, and you need to have your information available on these channels as they seek their information and inspiration online!

Millennials prefer more flexible work arrangements. For example, they prefer working hours that suit their lifestyle, so instead of normal 9 to 5 workday, they would rather work in the evenings at home. They need time with their manager, guidance to ensure that their needs are being met, and that their career is on track. Millennials want purpose, they want to know that they are making a difference in the workplace and in their communities.

They want a fast work projection, which means they want to grow, earn more and constantly learn new skills. This also means that if they feel that they are not reaching these expectations fast enough, they will leave their companies. Millennials are not as loyal to their work as generation x is. Learning more skills involves moving around in an organisation, taking on different roles to prove their work base.

A social work environment with lots of fun activities, social interaction will help to retain millennial staff, because they will have purpose and the like the people that they work with. Flexibility is key to them. So, having flexible working hours, responsibilities and work locations will keep them happy. Remember it is not the time they spend at work, but their productivity that matters!

4. So what now?

According to an article I recently read there are two perspectives to manage in the workplace. Firstly the employee-to-employee perspective is critical as it helps to understand how generations interact with each other.  This will help prevent miscommunication and misunderstanding. The way a generation deals with confrontation, the mode of communication preferred and gestures used in communication can also cause friction in the office.

Another sensitive area is the manager-to-employee perspective.  In the article they give clear guidelines of the characteristics and way of work of the different groups and it will be good for you to read up on this to ensure that there is harmony in the office. The manager needs to understand how each generation communicates but also how they view authority, work-life balance and relationships between the manager and employee.  As an employer you need to pro-actively address the potential issues.  Leaving matters to develop naturally or hoping it will resolve by itself may cause the working conditions to deteriorate and the morale and productivity of all generations to decrease.  This will ultimately reflect on the performance of your business as well.

5. Ideas to build the generational bridge

Firstly, “How do you recruit the best person for the job?” you may ask. Start with LinkedIn. Create relevant content on your LinkedIn page and update it regularly to attract top talent. Millennials are very engaged online, so they are looking for job opportunities on social media pages and networking sites. LinkedIn plays a big role in connecting with the right person for your company. The content that you put on LinkedIn, becomes extremely important to ensure that your company will provide them with the opportunities that they need.

Secondly, update your company policies to encourage promoting from within the organisation. This sends out the message that millennials can grow their careers in your organization. Also that there is the potential for senior opportunities in the same organization.

5 Tips that work

The following five ways may also help you to bridge the generation gap in the workplace:

  1. Keep communication open. We get to know people through communication, asking and answering questions.  Remember to communicate through various channels to ensure that you reach all your team members.
  2. Encourage the senior team members to mentor the younger team members. This will also help build a relationship of trust between them and will facilitate an exchange of ideas, to the benefit of both. The younger generation is also used to constant stimulation and needs information to keep developing.
  3. Give value to the seniors so that they feel they can still contribute to the business. Trust what each generation brings to the workplace.
  4. Set clear expectations for all team members. This will help millennials understand that they are making a difference and will give the other generations the structure they need to function.
  5. Focus on similarities and not differences. All generations want effective leadership (a leader they respect and trust), they want appreciation and recognition in their work (albeit in different forms), work life balance must be important to the company they work for and all generations have financial priorities (buying a house, paying of debt etc.).

The generations do things differently and they do think differently but if you can get all their energy and talents actively promoting and working in your business it will be the making of an awesome team!

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