There are currently five different generations at work today: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Generation Z. This means that in any work environment, you can have a group of people between the ages of 15-80. This is an exciting time to be working because we can all learn from many different generational experiences, values, and communication styles.
The two largest generations in the work place are the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. This is because these are both the largest generations in terms of population. However, with the Baby Boomers slowly moving into retirement, the Millennials are about to take over.
Traditionalists are still present in the workforce for a few reasons. First, they have tremendous experience and organizational knowledge and many organizations are trying to keep them around so that they do not lose that information. This means that Traditionalists are often Presidents of organizations or members of their Board of Directors. Secondly, Traditionalists are loyal to their organizations and they generally keep working as long as they can because of their values of security and getting the job done.
Generation X and Z are also in the workplace, but neither is very large. However, Gen Xers serve an important purpose because they are flexible and adaptable and because they value work-life balance and constructive feedback. They understand both the world without technology, so that can relate to Baby Boomers, and the world of the internet and social media, so they learn technology fast, which is appreciated by Millennials. Generation Z is only now starting to enter the workforce, so little is known about their work styles. However, they are expected to be independent, entrepreneurial, determined, and loyal.
The key to working with multiple generations is respect. Everyone wants to be respected and appreciated for what they bring to an organization. Being open and flexible to learning about different generational values and communication styles, will set any leader and employee up for success. Provide everyone with positive and constructive feedback and create a work environment that allows for more flexibility in terms of work hours, work location, and dress code whenever possible. Finally, realize that what motivates you personally is not necessarily what motivates other, especially if they are from different generations. Working with a diverse group of generational workers is a great benefit, to both the organization and to individuals.
-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.