Our lives have changed substantially during the past two years. As we push through year three of the COVID-19 global pandemic, work settings and structures have also changed, challenging employers and employees alike to adapt to the ever-evolving “new normal.”
Adding a layer (or four) of complexity to the mix is the generational landscape comprised of Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. The current labor market is already highly competitive, and meeting the needs of employees has never been more critical. Paid time off and competitive health insurance are baseline benefits required to land talented and productive employees. Now, ask an employee from one of the four generations what they truly value at work, and you’re likely to receive different and surprising answers.
Employers tasked with navigating these brave, new waters are sharpening their listening skills to best support their team. While one group is entrenched in corporate loyalty, another eschews the notion and prefers full transparency for however long they are employed by a company. Wondering where you and your employees fit in this workplace puzzle? Read on to look at each generation and their specific interests and needs.
Baby Boomers (born 1946 - 1964)
Values: Baby boomers are an industrious generation and are committed to their careers and employers. These goal-oriented workers devote a large portion of their energy to their job to ensure success.
Desires: Most baby boomer employees value loyalty. They want to receive it and give it in return. Their job-centered perspective leads to a high value on job ambition and financial achievement, making it difficult to strike a work-life balance. Given their aim of gaining promotions, they don't require frequent feedback on their performance. However, boomers are interested in learning about professional development possibilities to flourish in their current position. The desire to serve in elevated roles can foster a “paying it forward” culture for future generations.
Generation X (born 1965 - 1979)
Values: Generation X has an independent, relaxed approach to life. They emphasize pleasant, flexible work environments and choose efficiency above working hours. This generation values productivity and creativity in business and their personal lives while appreciating decision-making freedom and mentorship.
Desires: Generation X places a high value on personal development and an ever-evolving career path. They choose to strengthen their abilities and skillsets above loyalty to a firm. Generation X is uniquely equipped to meet modern-day job requirements thanks to being the first generation to grow up with digital technology. The video games and PCs of the 80s laid the foundation for today’s tech-savvy employees to embrace their early adopter status. Their strong skepticism of the status quo can often lead to advancement and innovation.
Millennials (born 1980 - 1996)
Values: Millennials are looking for meaningful employment, allowing them to develop and apply their creative abilities. They are digitally knowledgeable and use technology to make work more productive while leaving a lasting impression on team members. They, like Generation X, want to progress and value professional growth over loyalty to an employer.
Desires: Millennials desire to be evaluated on the outcome of their work, not the amount of effort to complete said tasks. They are inclined to change employers and positions frequently to find a career path and environment that best suits them. Millennials require skills training, coaching, and constant feedback to maintain long-term employment.
The desire for casual work settings began with Generation X. Millennials adopted the concept and demanded it when entering the workforce.
Generation Z (born 1997 - 2015)
Born between 1997 and 2015, Generation Z individuals are just beginning to enter the workforce.
Values: Generation Z values and expects sincerity, integrity, and connectedness in their interactions. Gen Z is regarded as the first digital natives so they value face-to-face contact while growing up with electronic devices.
Desires: Generation Z is still in the early stages of entering the labor force, but they are clear about their workplace expectations. They desire authenticity from their employers and consider flexibility, transparency, and honesty as workplace benchmarks.