Generation Gap is something all of us have experienced in our lives quite often. In simple words, it can be defined as the differences in values and attitudes between different generations. In our day-to-day lives, we mingle with people belonging to different generations, be it at home, school or workplace. Every individual, irrespective of the generation they belong to have a different role to play, and understanding this can help us maintain a peaceful atmosphere at home. Now imagine the situation where different generations co-exist to achieve collective objectives, say in a workplace. Addressing the generation gap in such situations is one of the most pressing dilemmas faced by the HRs and the Management these days.
The age gap in the workplace can often cause a difference of opinions among the employees. The reason for this difference can be professional as well as personal. In the long run, such differences tend to create an unpleasant working atmosphere thereby defeating the actual purpose of work. Therefore, it is extremely important to understand each generation and the challenges faced while managing a multigenerational workforce. This will help us take the necessary steps towards bridging the generation gap.
Let us take a look at the distinguishing features of various generations in detail.
Baby Boomers: Born between 1946-64, this generation has been a witness to incidents like the assassination of Martin Luther King and Kennedy and even the Civil Rights Movement. It is this group that gave way to Boomers (who are slightly narcissistic). Baby Boomers are known to be:
Gen X: Born between the years 1966-76, Gen X is also known as the Lost Generation. They are known to have been exposed to divorces and daycares. Though this group is believed to have received a good education, they are also known to have a lot of skepticism. Their education, combined with experience, makes them the most sought-after group in the market. They are:
- Excellent Leaders
Gen Y/ Millennials: They are born between 1980 and 1995 and are known to be radically diverse, technologically-wise, and sophisticated. The growth of media has enabled them to be well-versed and aware of their rights. They are much more flexible than Gen X, making it easy for them to acquire new skills. Moreover, they have received much more hands-on experience compared to the Millennials. Some of their distinguishing features include:
Gen Z: This is that generation that is considered to be booming. Being born after 1996, they are considered to be one of the fastest generations. They are always at the top of their game, but often at the cost of their mental health. Though they’re highly innovative, being slightly impatient can put them at a disadvantage. Some of their distinguishing features include:
CHALLENGES OF A MULTIGENERATIONAL WORKFORCE
It is said that with age comes experience. From that perspective, boomers are considered to be those who make the best leaders, followed by Gen Y. However the influx of Gen Y and as well as the outflux Gen Z has been fast, thereby creating a dearth of experienced employees. And this is considered to be one of the major challenges of organizations having a multigenerational workforce. Let us now take a quick look at some of the factors that create a difference of opinions among various generations.
- Communication: Being brought up in an era of telegram and wired phones, Boomers belong to the category that finds face-to-face conversations more meaningful than instant messaging. According to this group, instant messaging is a pure inconvenience. At the same time, we find Gen Z excelling in it, with the Millennials or Gen Y making successful attempts in catching up, owing to their pliant attitude. This is where the real challenge lies.
- Work Ethics: Boomers and Gen Z are known for their strong work ethics, while Gen Z believes in working flexibly and creatively. However, it has been noticed that they tend to cross the line at times. Gen Z falls somewhere in between, rising to the occasion and adapting, when in need.
- Feedback Expectations: Boomers and Gen X employees belong to that group who expects feedback in monetary/ tangible form. It is almost impossible to woo them by the promise with coupons or free Friday nights, unlike Gen Z. On the other hand, millennials or Gen Y feels the urge to be valued and crave maximum validation to keep their motivation up.
- Conflict Resolution: Boomers and Gen X insist on taking the consensus of the entire team while resolving conflicts. At the same time, Gen Z tends to resolve issues independently without waiting for anyone else. When it comes to the case of Gen Y, we can see that they need to be coached to resolve the issues.
Let us now look at some of the tips to bridge generational gaps:
- Open communication between various generations is the first and foremost factor to consider.
- Do not let stereotypes interfere with the decision-making process.
- Create an atmosphere where there is knowledge sharing and learning in the training process. Take special care to include activities like Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR Activities) to bring people of different generations together.
- Ensure that every generation’s expectations are taken care of.
- Organizations with young bosses and senior subordinates should foster a culture of mutual respect and give an equal voice to both the superiors and the subordinates.
Thus, we can see that moving ahead with a proper understanding of the challenges faced by organizations with a multigenerational workforce and the methods to tackle those challenges can help individuals to work towards the organizational goals as a team. The need of the hour is to stay open-minded and considerate towards everyone’s needs to maintain a pleasant and productive atmosphere in the organization.
“Each generation has something different at which they are all looking.”-Gertrude Stein
Idea & Concept: Mr. Josin Jacob, Research Analyst cum Faculty, Hedge School of Applied Economics
Content Development: Aswathi Satish, Niyog Consultancy Services Pvt. Ltd.