An introduction to the challenges faced in a multi-generational workforce

Published on: 30 Apr 2015

At your business, age isn't just a number

A multi-generational workplace is inevitably a complicated one. People of different ages typically have different perspectives on the world. They disagree on the most fundamental issues. They dress differently, eat differently and travel differently. And more pertinently, they work differently.

Unfortunately, as has been proven throughout human history, people often react adversely to change. It's in our very nature to mistrust those who behave differently to ourselves; anyone whose values, attitudes and motivations do not reflect our own. So, logically, the more the demographics of your office vary, the harder it is to manage everyone harmoniously.

Using the latest research, insights and opinions available, this study will examine the challenges inherent within a multi-generational workforce

After looking at what has defined each generation, it will examine their defining attitudes, habits and motivations at work. It will then look at potential areas of conflict, and what you can do to avoid them.

However, one important point must underpin your understanding of this subject: every workplace is different. In this document we'll be looking at broad trends, and a consensus built on the data we have. What it won't reflect is the data we don't have – the most important of which is locked within your own company.

So, above all, take this knowledge and use it as impetus to examine how the contrasting generations work, behave and co-exist at your own business.

The three generations

To allow this document to have focus and clarity, we've concentrated on the three generations that are currently most abundant at work, leaving out Veterans and Generation Z (who are also often known as 'Generation G').

Baby Boomers

Population boom; economic explosion

Born between 1946 and 1964, the Baby Boomers were born into a time of rapid and unprecedented economic growth.

They're known as 'Boomers' primarily because they were born after the Second World War, during a population spike as soldiers returned home

They were also the first generation to receive their own generational label, which some people suggest caused them to see themselves as a special generation. After all, unlike their parents, they were defined by opportunity, rather than survival

Opportunity and change

That sense of opportunity manifested itself in a variety of ways. They became wealthy; in the UK today, Boomers hold 80% of the country's wealth, despite only making up around 30% of its population. They were the first generation to have a large disposable income – they bought houses, cars and holidays like never before. The concept of consumerism effectively belongs to Baby Boomers.

But they also wanted to change the world. In the 1960s and 1970s, formal religion rapidly declined in the UK and USA. Meanwhile, millions were protesting about civil rights and the Vietnam War, and the whole world watched these events unfold on televisions for the first time.

For Boomers, it was an era of opportunity, but also an era of rapid change. They were confident, they were successful, and they became leaders – but equally, they're an enormously complex group. While some dedicated their lives solely to job security and the property ladder, others were questioning traditional values entirely.

How they work

Born leaders

A recent study found that they score 34% higher on 'leading' qualities than Generation Y, and are also 28% more decisive. They also scored highly on 'motivating' and 'persuasive' – all classic indicators of traditional leadership skills.

Typically of great leaders, they also value individual confidence over social confidence. They're not particularly people-oriented, and are the generation least enthused by teamwork.

Loyal, competitive, hard-working

Boomers are typically loyal – more than 50% have been with the same employer for at least 10 years. They typically work long hours and are happy to compete with the people they work with to secure promotions. In their minds, that's what career progression is…

To find out more about Baby Boomers, Generation X and Y and how they all work together download the full whitepaper.