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How to manage five different generations in the workplace

Companies are currently at a unique crossroads: for the first time ever, we’re seeing five generations represented in the workforce. While this certainly presents new challenges in the workplace, we also view this as an exciting opportunity to create a cohesive and collaborative multi-generational culture. We’ll explain how in this blog post.  

An overview of the five generations in the workplace 

Before we dive into our best practices, let’s get familiar with the generations that are currently represented in the workforce. We share a few key points to know about each group below. Keep in mind that these are general observations to help us understand every generation’s big-picture goals, motivations, and needs – and not necessarily an accurate representation of every individual within the demographic.

Generation Z

Employees in this generation, also more casually referred to as Gen-Z, were born between 1995 and 2012 and make up around 5% of the global workforce. Below are a few additional characteristics of this group: 

  • Are digital natives, but they still tend to prefer face-to-face communication
  • Care deeply about doing meaningful work 
  • Are invested in social issues, such as sustainability, diversity, and climate change
  • Has an entrepreneurial spirit and prefers independent work 

Millennials

Millennials, also referred to as Generation Y, are comprised of people born between 1980 and 1994. This group currently makes up around 35% of the workforce. Here are a few other things to know about Millennials in the workplace:  

  • Are very comfortable with technology and prefer to use it at work 
  • Prefer collaboration and team-oriented companies
  • Place a lot of importance on recognition, mentorship, and feedback
  • Want to be challenged to grow and aren’t afraid to question authority

Generation X

People from this generation were born between 1965 and 1979 and are also more casually referred to as Gen-X. They currently make up around 33% of the workforce. Below are additional things to know about this generation of workers: 

  • Prioritise work-life balance
  • Value resourcefulness and problem-solving  
  • Weren’t raised with technology but are still adept at using it
  • Thrive in leadership positions and hold over 50% of them

Baby Boomers

This generation is defined by people who were born between 1946 and 1964 and represents around 25% of the workforce. Here are a few other things you should know about Baby Boomers in the workplace: 

  • Motivated by prestige, promotions, and professional accomplishments
  • Value independence and self-reliance 
  • Enjoy competition and thrive in challenging work environments
  • Tend to be goal-driven and disciplined 

Silent generation

Employees in the Silent Generation, who are also commonly referred to as Traditionalists, were born between 1928 and 1945. They make up around 2% of the workplace. Below are a few additional characteristics of this group: 

  • Loyal to their employees and respect authority
  • Value stability, security, and consistency
  • Hardworking and strong-willed

3 best practices for cross-generational collaboration

1. View differences as strengths, not setbacks

While it’s important to recognize differences between both individuals and groups, these dissimilarities don’t have to be viewed as a setback. Just as HR teams embrace racial and gender diversity, age diversity is something to be welcomed as well. Unfortunately, age isn’t considered among 92% of companies that actually do have diversity hiring strategies in place. 

This ultimately impacts your business outcomes. A study found that being a part of a mixed-aged workplace group increased motivation for both older and younger colleagues and increased their intent to stay with the organization. Research also clearly demonstrates that age diversity can improve organizational performance. So whether you’re hosting a company-wide brainstorm or recruiting for new hires, don’t be afraid to cast your net wide. 

2. Avoid making general assumptions

It’s easy for people to wave their hands and dismiss Millennials as being “entitled” or criticise the Silent Generation for being “old fashioned.” But these are harmful assumptions that can get in the way of employees forming meaningful relationships with each other. There’s an opportunity for HR teams to step in and steer people away from making these general assumptions. 

For example, consider hosting training sessions on the harmful effects of ageism and other similar biases. Or host a group where employees can come together and have an open conversation about the challenges of working in a multi-generational workplace. This is a great way to normalise the topic of ageism instead of tiptoeing around the topic. 

3. Encourage cross-generational engagement

It’s easy for employees of similar ages to split up into their own social groups. But you don’t want people getting left out of conversations or bonding time because of this natural tendency to gravitate toward people who look like us. As the HR team, you can encourage employees to connect with others who aren’t necessarily their peers in age.

Consider setting up randomised Donut dates to pair people together. Or host team-oriented activities – like a virtual scavenger hunt or group talent show – and assign people to groups that they likely wouldn’t choose for themselves. While it may take some time, these opportunities will eventually lead to meaningful cross-generational relationships being formed at your organisation.  

Managing five generations in the workplace can seem daunting at first. But there are actually tons of benefits to having such a diverse range of ages, perspectives, and experiences represented at your company. Use our best practices to create a culture that embraces multi-generational differences.

To learn how Flare HR’s free onboarding software and employee benefits can strengthen your company culture, request a demo.

5 practices to build a strong workplace culture from the Best Places to Work winners

Every year, a research institute called Great Place to Work Australia compiles a list of organisations that are considered to have the most desirable company cultures. This ranking is based on surveys of nearly 40,000 Australian employees, as well as an evaluation of the employers’ policies and procedures.

According to the research institute, a great place to work can be defined as one “where you trust the people you work with, have pride in what you do, and enjoy the people you work with.” But what exactly does this mean? We took a closer look at what these top-notch companies are doing to keep their employees happy and identified four best practices that you can put into action with your own workforce. 

5 Best practices to build a strong workplace culture 

Drawing inspiration from the 2020 Best Places To Work list, we’ve pulled out some of the best practices that these companies use to strengthen their workplace culture.

1. Take a purpose-driven approach to business  

Purpose-driven organisations have clearly identified their reasons for existing – beyond just their profits, products, and services. And this purpose is infused into every aspect of their business, from the employee experience to the business strategy. These are the types of companies that people increasingly want to work for – especially Millennials, with 84% of this demographic believing that making a difference is more important than professional recognition.

This is a lesson that Interactive embodies well, and is the first step on Interactive’s five pillar wellbeing strategy, which is likely why it’s ranked first in this year’s Best Places To Work list. Director of People and Culture at InteractiveMerylee Crockett shares the other pillars on her list:

  1. Start with purpose – A commitment to keeping your why at the core of every decision you make.
  2. Safety – A commitment to keeping each other safe and investing in the physical and psychological wellbeing of our people.
  3. Connection – A commitment to a connected and collaborative workplace.
  4. Health – A commitment to nurturing your physical, mental and financial health.
  5. Resilience – A commitment to learn from any adversity thrown your way. 

At Interactive, building a resilient culture requires an integrated approach across all five pillars to succeed. Leaning on these pillars has allowed the workforce to stay resilient together by coping with adversity, continuing to build and adapt, and learning from their experiences.

2. Make your leaders accessible to employees 

Employees want to hear from their leadership team regularly – especially during times like today when circumstances are constantly changing. In fact, this type of engagement is so important that 91% of employees say communication issues can drag executives down.

That’s likely why IT service provider Insentra, which has featured on the Best Places To Work list for five years running, is focused on opening up communication channels between its executive team and the rest of the organisation – especially after going fully remote during COVID-19. Insentra’s co-founder and CEO, Ronnie Altit, explains that he’s been making a more conscious effort to engage in conversations with employees across all levels – even if that’s just sending them a quick message to say hello.

He’s also trying to make himself as accessible by hosting weekly team calls that provide employees with an opportunity to ask questions, engage in conversations, or simply provide an update on how things are going across the rest of the organisation.

3. Care personally 

One of the most common themes we identified on Australia’s 2020 Best Places To Work list is the importance of caring personally. In response to the global pandemic, employers have stepped up to provide their teams with the resources and support they need to stay healthy, productive, and optimistic during these challenging times. 

For example, Terlya Hunt the People Experience Manager at SafetyCulture went above and beyond to keep their employee as happy and healthy as possible during the pandemic. The company launched a new EAP to help employees build mental fitness, provided education on how to hold space for vulnerable conversations, and set weekly themes for Mental Health Month in October to cover all aspects of wellness – such as  finances and nutrition. 

4. Listen to what your employees have to say

Companies with strong cultures always listen to what their employees have to say. Many times, HR teams and company leaders make assumptions about what their workforce wants – and it’s not always aligned with reality. To prevent this from happening, use tools like pulse checks and surveys to collect feedback from your employees. 

These types of listening strategies are a huge part of what sets the best companies apart from the rest. SAP Australia, which is on the 2020 list for Best Places To Work, released a remote ‘pulse check’ this year so that their employees could regularly share how they’re feeling and what management could do to support them. Similarly, Insentra has been continuously surveying its workforce to identify any communication gaps.

5. Build a culture of resilience 

Lucy Horne, a researcher from New Zealand, defines resilience as a trait that allows people to adapt to and learn from adversity. During the pandemic, HR analysts like Josh Bersin have been stressing the importance of building resilient organisations, cultures, and people. Not only does this allow companies to survive tough times, but it’s also integral to the wellbeing of employees.

Lucy Lithgow the General Manager of People and Culture at BPAY set up a various initiatives across her organisation to give her staff more autonomy and trust because this is something she believes is key in driving a resilient culture. During this time, BPAY went from a good employee engagement rate to a 92% engagement rate this year. Some of the initiatives Lucy implemented includes: removing the requirement for employees produce a medical certificate if need the day off, removing the company dress code and finally allowing all employees to be given access to the recognition budget so that they can now recognise and reward a colleague or a peer for going above and beyond. These things have really helped BPAY foster a resilient culture.

There’s so much we can learn from these inspiring companies and their HR teams – especially today, when workplace culture is more critical than ever before. Take these learnings from the organisations featured on the  Best Places To Work list and put them into practice today. To learn how Flare HR’s free onboarding software and employee benefits can strengthen your company culture, request a demo.