We now have three ‘high potential’ generations working together and we are at the cusp of more generational change. In today’s workplace you’ll find these three generations: Baby boomers, Generation X and Generation Y (Millennials,). If you can have them work well together; maximise their potential and lead and manage them all, you will be able to harvest their combined benefits.
The youngest are Generation Y (aka Millennials) – born 1981-2000. This is the largest age group to emerge since the Baby Boomer generation. Numerous surveys report how their expectations can be significantly different from the two earlier generations; for instance, Millennials have very different expectations about jobs, length of service in a firm and remuneration than their predecessors. Unsurprisingly, since the world is a different place and each generation needs to grow, develop and be able to adapt to the existing and changing conditions.
Interestingly, the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016 predicts Gen Y will make up 75 per cent of the global workforce by 2025. Two key challenges for business are how best to harness their engagement and dealing with their willingness and confidence to move firms after a short period, often in search of promotion, improved package or a better work/life balance.
Generation X – born 1961-1980, differ from older Baby Boomers in the workplace in that they ‘live to work’ not work to live. The first generation to work from home, they respond well to an unstructured, flexible workplace. They are highly motivated to succeed and entrepreneurial, many are multi-talented. Their focus is on relationships, achievements and developing their competencies and skills.
Baby Boomers – born 1946-1960. Many older Baby Boomers have left the workplace, while younger Baby Boomers remain in the workplace. BB’s continue to have a massive contribution to make given their strong leadership traits, the breath of experience and change – and their persuasiveness and authority.
Tips on how to maximise this extraordinary opportunity
Gen Y / Millennials
While Gen X value change, Gen Y are addicted to it. Progressive companies will retain Gen Y by offering them ongoing development, a flexible remuneration package, clear career progression, frequent feedback on progress and immediate rewards for jobs well done.
Resist the temptation to ‘put down’ their ideas out of your ignorance of technology or discomfort with media tech. Use their knowledge rather than avoiding it.
Involve them in planning now how to harness their potential to the fullest extent. This means assessing their current skills, knowledge and experience, where they can contribute (this may be outside their current role) , while considering what gaps need to be filled in order to ready them for future leadership and performance effectiveness.
Leverage their strengths, including work ethic, reliability, problem-solving approaches, accumulated knowledge and skills by tasking them with suitable challenges and projects.
Set up Reverse-Mentoring with younger employees to teach, share knowledge and stretch each other. Match them with emerging leaders to prepare them for leadership roles.
Leverage their valuable experience and their capacity to excel as leaders within their current companies.
Maximise their entrepreneurial spirit in finding ways to help the business innovate and grow while retaining your best talent.
Recognise them for what they’ve achieved; they have proved their worth and are contributing significantly. Continue to engage, stretch and excite them.
Enable space for them to express their entrepreneurial nature, harness their drive and abilities to retain them in your organisation, you will have a valuable resource for years to come.
All three generations
Remember the terms Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y are labels we use to help us make sense of broadly similar groups. In order to lead effectively you need to identify and address the aspirations and potential of individuals.
When you find and address their individual drivers, preferences and values you’ll have a better handle on how best to motivate, engage and retain them – and in doing so, set yourself and your business up for success.
Finally, open your mind to current and future potential – in all three generations. What are you already doing well? Who could you better harness to contribute? Ask yourself, “Is the talent pipeline in place in our organisation based on more of the same rather than on looking wider and deeper into the skills and future potential of our younger generation?”. Remember, they are the future and in ten years they will be 75% of the workforce.
By Catherine Joyce, Managing Director of BlueQuay Limited