Late Baby-Boomers, Gen X and Millennials are the three biggest generations in the workplace right now. Millennials sometimes garner a disparaging view from their older contemporaries, but it’s a two-way street. So, what can they teach each other to capitalise on their collective strengths?
A common conception is that Millennials want it all—the power, the title, the high salary—right now. They frequently take opportunity after opportunity and move from company to company, hoping to shortcut this process. These methods stem from the fact that they are anxious about the future—they have more debt and a higher cost of living than their parents did at the same age. They are also looking for a more satisfying position.
Many Millennials hold the view that job-hopping will bring a higher return in the short term; but that doesn't bring credibility in the long-run.
Credibility comes from two things:
In contrast, Gen X did come into the workforce with desktop computers. They found a ladder with missing rungs and have had to adapt constantly over the last 20 years—many times moving laterally to find more meaningful work. They value communication and even social media almost as much as Millennials do. They also value individual achievement highly and can understand Millennials’ desire for personal and professional growth opportunities.
Late Baby Boomers are nearing the end of their careers and have reached that stage in entirely different ways. They may use modern technology but it is by no means embedded in their psyche. Social media, ‘oversharing’, portmanteau careers; these are things they know about – may even have experienced – but they are not mentally or emotionally geared up to working in that way. They did not communicate or make decisions as rapidly as today. They had a career ladder to climb, and tended to stay at organisations much longer.
Millennials are concerned about:
1. Reaching their goals in a reasonable time
2. Hierarchy and how to fit in when their instinct is for cooperation and collaboration
3. Being heard - they have ideas and want people to be open to them
4. Money – their resentment against older generations with housing and pension advantages is legitimate
5. Changing working patterns for the better
Late Baby Boomers and Generation X are concerned about:
1. Building skills and experience - both their own and their subordinates’
2. Working in practical ways that reflect the abilities of the team
3. Using technology effectively
4. Retaining reliable staff
5. Reaching their goals in a reasonable time
While LBB/GX are in a good position to mentor, they are also much older than Millennials and have a harder time understanding their world view. However, an interesting piece of research from Fortune reveals that 62% of Gen Xers want to become mentors, which is more than any other generation. They are at the age and have the experience level that puts them in demand, so this could be a great opportunity for both groups. Next time we will look at how this can work…in both directions.