Cross-generational workforces are comprised of groups of employees that are currently working together who were born and raised during different generations.
We know that there are strong societal trends and patterns that impact the way each generation views work ethics, politics, cultural norms and other day-to-day values and expectations. It is crucial to understand how our perspectives may have been influenced by the generation that influenced us in order for our workplace culture to thrive.
Differentiating the Generations
Baby Boomers (Born between 1946 and 1964): They are known for being idealists and very optimistic. They are also known to be hard workers who were encouraged to work long hours, often staying until the job is finished. Baby boomers revere the hierarchy of the organization, which is emphasized by their willingness to work more than the traditional 40 hours a week. Additionally, they believe that there is a clear line between personal and professional time.
Generation X (Born between 1965 and 1979): This group believes in a work-life balance. They are not as influenced by the organizational hierarchy and are more inclined to champion innovation. They can be credited with coining the phrase "change management" and are responsible for introducing conversation regarding work teams, which involves employees collaborating to help solve problems. This group is comprised of critical thinkers who are not afraid to ask questions. They expect transparency as well as frequent and direct communication.
Millennials (Born between 1980 and 1995): Millennials are known as multitaskers in that they can focus and work while their smartphone is within reach, which they will check periodically. As a result, they are granted simultaneous access to their work and personal lives. Many millennials have entered the workforce with multiple degrees. Although this indicates that they are a very book smart generation, they do not have much hands-on practical experience in the workforce. This trait could be indicative of the shortage of after-school and summer job opportunities that previous generations were afforded.
Obstacles Employees Are Experiencing with a Cross-Generational Workforce
Policies and procedures established in one generation may not be suitable for generations that follow. For example, policies that were created by baby boomer managers most likely will not fit a millennial employee's more flexible workplace expectations.
A way to mitigate these restrictions or frustrations with the way different generations work and function amongst each other is to examine how to turn these potential obstacles into opportunities for current and future employees. One simple step is to encourage the organization to be open to employee ideas. Make sure to communicate expectations, procedures and policies in a manner that can be understood by all. Confirm that necessary adjustments are made for the current staff and the incoming Generation Z.
By: Sharon Harris
Senior Consultant, Human Resources & Organizational Development, Citycounty Insurance Services
Summary of Qualifications
Sharon is currently the HR and employment risk consultant and trainer for Citycounty Insurance Services (CIS). She trains on various employment liability topics for all audience levels including elected officials, senior managers and general staff. Previous to joining CIS, Sharon was with the City of Redmond, OR for 14 years holding positions of human resources/risk management director, assistant city manager/HR director and interim city manager. Her previous role with the city included risk management responsibilities and she is very active in OR-PRIMA serving as its president from 2012-14. She also has an expansive human resources background including private sector work with AIG Claims Services and Benova, a third-party benefits administrator.
Sharon provides human resource consultation and guidance to CIS members throughout the state, particularly to elected officials and chief city and county administrators. She supports members with human resource training and guidance related to employment decisions, disciplinary actions, compliance, audits, documentation, etc. She participates in the ongoing development of CIS’ HR risk management services.
Sharon attended PRIMA's Enterprise Risk Management Training in November 2017.
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