Generations exhibit similar characteristics—such as communication, shopping, and motivation preferences—because they experienced similar trends at approximately the same life stage and through similar channels (e.g., online, TV, mobile, etc.).
Generation-shaping trends are most influential as people come of age, which means that members of a particular generation will develop and share similar values, beliefs, and expectations.
It is important to remember that at an individual level, everyone is different. But looking at people through a generational lens offers useful insight in the workplace in trying to motivate and relate to individuals across generations.
Some claim generational naming is just another way to discriminate between the young and the old; I totally disagree. It’s important that we share lifetime experiences that give a different perspective and encourage us to have faith in unsettling times of such as these. An example of this occurred mid-March when businesses were being forced to close due to COVID-19 virus.
I had to remind business owners, frustrated with young workers’ reactions to business closures that certain generations were not equipped to deal with this kind of situation. After all, some workers were only in grade school when 9-11 occurred so telling young adults that “it was going to be fine” isn’t helpful. Instead, employers need to be patient. Generational cultures are more than dates on a calendar, they are events and critical social factors defined during the impressionable years. (more below)
For the Gen Z and the Gen Alpha (the newest generation born after 2010), the COVID-19 Crisis will be one of those defining factors. Face masks, online classrooms and the cancellations of critical social events won’t be easily forgotten. By understanding the differences in generational cultures, leaders can create empathy and camaraderie to help their staff through this great time of stress.
Recently as I read various posts about working from home verses the office, I’m starting to recognize the generation that each comment belongs to. Being a Gen Xer, I have learned to work alone or in a network but flexibility and life/work balance have always been part of my DNA. That isn’t necessarily true for all generations. The Baby Boomer may be less comfortable with video conferencing while the Millennial may have to deal with the task of balancing children at home, managerial responsibilities and personal time. Understanding Generational Cultures is not only fun and interesting, it can help us empathize with other co-workers as we all settle into the “New Norm”.
Did You Know?
Generation Z makes up the majority of the US population at almost 28% with the Baby Boomers second at 22.18% followed closely by the Millenials (22.03%), the Generation Xs (20%) and the Traditionals (7.5%)