Different generations in the workplace, an HR hype or more?

An Degryse
  • 5 Min read

The use of different generations in the workplace is it an HR hype or is there more? Studies have shown that if you, as an employer, strive for a good reflection of society in the workplace, then you benefit from the diversity and the varied experience.

At the moment we find four generations on the work floor: the "baby boomers" are in full swing, but still a lot of people over 50 and 60 want, can and still have to work. Generation X, those in their forties with a small overlap to the young fifties. Generation Y, everyone born between 1980 and 1994. And finally Generation Z (the real Millenials), born between 1995 and 2010, although many of the latter are still in school. Generation Alpha (from 2011), are just out of the diapers ;-) and we certainly do not find them in the workplace yet.

If you, as an entrepreneur, employer, have a lot of employees at work who were born between 1980 and 2000, you can only reap the benefits of that as an employer. Provided you integrate them correctly and let them work together. We like to zoom in on these two generations. Do you think it is necessary to do this? Yes, because they will become the majority on the workfloor and they cannot simply be thrown into one pot.

What does Generation Y and Generation Z mean?

Generation Y is the successor to generation X and includes everyone who was born in the period 1980-1994. This generation is seen as self-centered, lazy and impatient. But on the other hand, it is also characterized by creativity, open-mindedness and a great social responsibility. According to some studies, they bear the consequences of poor upbringing techniques and technology, but that does not mean that they are not ambitious.

Anyone born after 1994 belongs to generation Z. These young people are now quietly seeping into the labour market and have learned from the mistakes of the previous generation. The biggest difference with generation Y? Their extremely realistic attitude. Because of the current terrorist threats and other global conflicts, they have become more cautious and the economic crises have made them money-conscious. They realize only too well that they have to keep training and they have an entrepreneurial attitude. Nevertheless, the two generations also have some points in common: the youngest generation also wants to have an impact on the world at all costs and is more than ever engaged in socially responsible entrepreneurship.


How can you integrate both in your organisation or company?

Generation Y is raised with the idea that they are special. They can reach the top (think of TV programs and films like "Everyone famous", the reality soaps that are very popular with this generation, etc.). If they suddenly hear on their first job that they are underperforming and do not just get what they want, that is a blow to their self-confidence. Do you have to go pampering this generation? No, but you will not achieve much with repression or negativity. It is a generation that needs confirmation. A generation that blooms openly when you show that you believe in them. This generation is also characterized by a strong opinion, not too many restrictions is the code word. They are best at multi-tasking, so varied tasks and use of technology is no problem. Because Generation Y is used to mainly make online contacts, many have invested too little in profound relationships. They also quickly access their smartphone whenever they have some free time. As an employer, you therefore have every interest in investing in social contacts and team connections. You also better ban smartphones from the meeting room. In this way, this generation Y will listen more attentively to their discussion partners and enter into a personal conversation with their colleagues for the meeting. Communication with impact? This generation listens to "values", why is more important to them than "what" and "how". They will carry out their job with even more passion if they know what their efforts are. And wages would be less important than content? When push comes to shove, that is also a crucial factor in their job choice.

Generation Z has become big in a rapidly evolving world, in uncertain times and even more social media. It is also the first generation with a truly global attitude. But their most striking characteristic is perhaps their entrepreneurship. More than half of generation Z want to establish its own company, according to surveys. To feed that entrepreneurial hunger, as an employer you give the youngsters enough own projects. Show them what they have in store and give them the chance to have an impact. Also in your communication you better take into account this generation of realists. Open and honest communication above all, not high-spirited but to the point. The Millennials puncture half-truths very easily, perhaps even more than their older colleagues. Be sure to include digital content in your branding as a company. This is the content that this generation will share, movies about special events that can be shared via social media are a hit with this generation. And forget Facebook. Instagram, LinkedIn and new platforms that pop up are a challenge to keep following. They are so creative and link themselves more to the company in this way.

You notice it, clear differences between both generations and certainly the effort to go further. If you want to know more about these and other generations in the workplace, we would like to refer you to literature and training:

Everyone boss, Saskia Van Uffelen - about working together for four generations in the workplace. Is it now Generation X, Y or Einstein by Pedro Debruyckere and Bert Smits.
Many training institutions such as Voka, Kessels & Smit offer interesting training courses on this theme. We would also like to refer to the publications of Trendwolves, https://trendwolves.com
This article came about with information from the study Trendwolves, lecture 2017 - HR Jam Antwerp, Voka lecture, September 2017 and a study by Batenborch International June 2017.


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