Most modern organizations today are facing a peculiar problem, and that is the generation gap. Employees belonging to four completely different generations―traditional, baby boomers, generation X, and generation Y, are working together under the same roof, and are often seen clashing with each other due to the differences in their values, ideas, communication, and work style.
Employees belonging to this generation were born around the time of World War 2, and hence, all of them are above the age of sixty. These employees believe in the values of 'organization' and 'obedience', when it comes to their work. Since this generation grew up when the world was under crisis, they are ready to make sacrifices for the common good. Many of the people belonging to this generation hold senior positions, and hence, their thought process, opinions, and decisions will more or less be responsible for the future success of the organization.
Employees who belong to this generation will be in the age group of forty-five to sixty-five. These people are family-oriented, and grew up in safe and secure homes, without the kind of oppression and discipline that was meted out to the previous generation. Baby boomers are most likely to be the holders of management positions in an organization. These people, being family-oriented, work very effectively in teams. They are much better than the previous generation as far as using technology is concerned. Their only drawback being that, they are unable to either give negative feedback or receive one themselves.
The employees of this generation will be in the age group of thirty and forty-five. When these people were growing up, there was a lot of emphasis on one's education and career. So, many of them would have college degrees. They believe in the value of working hard, but only if they get some monetary benefit out of it. People belonging to this generation are spread across all the levels of management in modern organizations today. They are good at meeting short-term goals and problem solving, but may not be able to look at the bigger picture. Their sense of duty is slightly lesser than the previous two generations, and they require constant motivation and supervision to deliver.
Employees of this generation, born after 1980, are in their twenties. People of this generation are more open to new ideas and experimentation than any other previous generation. They are more apt at using technology than the previous generations too. Employees belonging to this generation will most likely be found in lower management or entry-level jobs.
Bridging the Gap
Bridging the generation gap is very important if an organization wants its employees to work together peacefully and productively. Research shows that employees interact on the basis of their upbringing, values, and ideas, and thus, each of the four generations has its own way of thinking, working, and behaving, according to their backgrounds. There are a number of steps that an organization can take to bridge this gap at the workplace.
- Training the employees on the communication and working styles of the different generations will help in avoiding misunderstandings as well as confrontations. For this, organizations should conduct regular seminars and special events especially dedicated to this purpose, which offer practical advice to the employees on how to deal with people from another generation. Once the employees begin to understand the other employees belonging to other generations, they will be able to work together in a better way.
- If there are certain jobs in the organization which call for a particular talent, such as a job which requires personnel with advanced technological skills, then employees of a specific generation which possess those skills should be given preference. For example, when advanced computer skills are required, then generation Y should be given preference.
- The older employees belonging to the previous generation might be prone to suffering from some physical ailments, and will most probably be physically inferior to the younger generation. Such employees should be given proper support so that they can work comfortably. Ideally, they should not be given physically challenging jobs.
- Policies such as those pertaining to motivation or any other aspect of business should be devised, keeping the needs of different generations in mind. For example, those belonging to generation X can be motivated by a higher salary or a bonus, while those belonging to baby boomers can be motivated by giving recognition and respect.
Contemporary businesses have a wide range of requirements these days, vis-a-vis skills of the employees are concerned, and these requirements cannot just be fulfilled by employees of a single generation. The experience of the older generation is needed along with the technologically advanced skills and enthusiasm of the younger generation. This makes proper management of generational differences in the workplace one of the topmost priorities.