This research paper will examine the multi-generational workforce which includes Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (better known as Millennials) and the Z generation. An examination of each generational group will include their general characteristics, values and preferred methods of communication, in an effort to identify effective methods necessary to close the communicational gap that exists in today’s workforce.
We have a very diverse workforce ranging from baby boomers to Z generation, and it is imperative that we find common ground amongst this broad range of generations in order provide an environment in which each group can use their individual skills and experience to their optimal potential.
Achieving a higher level of effective communication and understanding between this multi-generational group will greatly aid the organization as a whole, as well as meeting the needs of all employees involved.
Today’s workforce largely consists of 3 generations today – Baby Boomers, born from 1946-1964; Generation X, born from 1965-1980; and Millennials, born from 1981-1996.
According to J. M. Acker, having these different generations in the workforce presents challenges and obstacles as it relates to communication, respect between multiple generations and each group’s work style (Aker, 2009). Each generation is known as a cohort of people born within a particular period of time (Sandeen, 2008). For the purposes of this research, we will focus on the Baby Boomers and the Millennials.
Nearing the end of WWII, mass droves of veterans returned home from the war and began families. As a result, birth rates began to rise substantially in many countries, and at its peak, there were 78.
8 Million people born during this time period (Colby and Ortman, 2014). Baby Boomers as a group, are more highly educated, and have a higher concentration of professional and managerial positions, (Frey, 2010). They are characterized as having strong work ethic, self-assured, goal centric, and team oriented (Hughs and O’Rand, 2004). The past values of the previous cohorts concerning family and marriage changed substantially in this generation, and separation and divorce became more prevalent (Hughs and O’Rand, 2004). Boomers can be out-spoken and prefer to be face-to-face when communicating with others (Frey, 2010).
Millennials who are also referred to as Generation Y, are often considered to be thought of as lazy, entitled, and self-centered people (Voogd, 2018). They have been labeled, the “Me Generation” (Main, 2017). They hold less value in self-acceptance, group alignment, and community but do focus on a more extrinsic value of money, materialist items and their self-image. They are far more tolerant of diversity, more accepting of minorities and other diverse sexual orientation (Main, 2017). This cohort, like baby boomers, value education and are considered to be the best educated generation in the workforce (Hall, 2016). They value good communication between coworkers and managers and expect a respectful and professional work environment (Hall, 2016). According to Vanessa King, a positive psychology expert at Action for Happiness, personal development is a core need for their psychological well-being (Kohll, 2018). Millennials are comfortable with using digital interactive technology for much of their communication which is drastically different than baby boomers, who prefer that face to face communication (Venter, 2017).
Taking a human resources approach allows the communicator to better meet the hierarchy of needs as defined by Maslow’s Theory:
In order to bring these 2 generational cohorts together, consideration must be given to their needs as well as their differences. Assuring that each group has a sound understanding of each other’s values and characteristics is paramount, not only at a management level, but from a peer to peer level as well. This can begin by supporting and promoting mentoring as well as reverse mentoring (Murphy, 2012). Affording each group, the opportunity to better understand their peer’s values, experience and knowledge better prepares each participant with relating to each other at different generational levels. Communication must be tailored to their unique needs and ideals (Smyrl, 2011), a single approach will not be effective when attempting to communicate with each cohort as a whole unit (Ware, et al, 2007).
Tailoring your communications to provide the baby boomer with that face-to-face, participative process, inviting their thoughts and ideas (Murphy, 2007), and combining it with millennials desire to have immediate feedback, providing mutual respect for their thoughts and ideas.
Providing this cross generational group an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of each other’s needs as individuals, will better equip them with being able to effectively find common ground in which to communicate with each other effectively and productively. Recognizing the 5 key elements that enable each person to function at their optimum potential, will ultimately provide an environment in which each group can use their individual skills and experience together to reach common goals as a whole unit within their organization.