Time to take generational differences with a pinch of salt

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

By Charlotte Boffey, below, UK Head of Services, Employment Hero

Welcome to the modern workplace where we seem to have labels for everything. Even though the labels we currently use to highlight generational differences in the workplace are relatively modern, the concept of generational gaps is certainly not new.

With so many unprecedented changes such as the great resignation, global movement and push for more work-from-home rights bringing us all together, is it time we stopped talking about generational differences in the workplace?

 

Do age groups in the workplace matter?

Being aware of age groups in the workplace can be helpful. For instance, it can help you understand how best to engage with your employees or choose a team-building activity. It can also help you understand different work styles and communication styles that people within your team have. 

What are the different generations across the workplace?

Across many companies, there are currently five generations of people working together. From Gen Z in their early 20s to the baby boomers in their 60s and 70s. Generational differences are often too generalised and presumptuous. They should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Thanks to the continued development of technology that supports upskilling and productivity, opportunities in the world of work have become much easier to access for people of different ages and stages of their lives and careers. Founders of today’s startups are getting younger too, creating room for Generation Z and Millennial-aged company founders.

What are the common generational myths?

If you want to build an inclusive and dynamic team, chances are you’re aiming to create a positive work environment that embraces all generations. However, in a multigenerational workforce, there are some common myths that may be harmful to both your younger employees and the older generations. 

Myth no. 1: Millennials are lazy

One of the most popular work-related myths about millennials is the troubling implication that millennial employees are lazy. It came to the surface thanks to many of them often job hunting, unable to buy a home, and their fight for a better work-life balance. Millennials might be on to something – perhaps what they’re looking for is flexibility. 

Myth no. 2: Your work hours reflect how hard you work

This myth is popular among older workers as it alludes to how the traditional workplace once was. Avoid embracing this myth by changing your mindset towards what good productivity should look like. There is a fine line between productivity and burnout – make sure that efficiency is embraced and not rewarded with more work to avoid burning out your team. 

Myth no. 3: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

It’s completely untrue that older generations can’t learn new skills. With the advancement of technology, the saying has risen again in recent years as today’s workforce becomes more digitally literate. No matter the sector, workforce or generation, employees are having to learn new skills as jobs become further digitised and automation-driven.

While it is important to consider the generational differences in the workplace, employers should also be ready for the difference, and have a commitment to understanding the strengths, skills, and abilities that employees bring to the team, regardless of their age. After all, there are a lot of life experiences and stories we can learn from all generations.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024