You probably know the stereotypes: Millennial’s are tech-savvy, but not team players; Gen X-ers are good at bridging Millennial’s and Boomers, but never learned to lead; Baby Boomers are dependable and hard-working, but don’t like sharing the limelight.
Turns out, the stereotypes aren’t far off the mark. A study by EY (formerly Ernst & Young) found that there are indeed some distinct workplace differences between the generations. For example:
- Baby Boomers ranked the highest for being hardworking, productive parts of their organizations, but the lowest at being adaptable and collaborative.
- Gen Xers scored as the most effective, adaptable, collaborative, problem-solving revenue generators, but they scored the lowest at displaying executive presence and being cost effective.
- Millennial’s were widely said to be the most tech-savvy members of the workplace, in knowing how to use social media to leverage opportunities and in being enthusiastic about their jobs,but they scored the lowest on being hardworking, team players and on being a productive part of the organization.
That said, the three generations have as much in common as different. All three generations have similar values, and all say that family is the most important thing.
Here’s a handy chart for comparing the generational work-styles.
Putting it all together, Boomers tend to prefer a workplace that is more egalitarian, humane and democratic. Gen-Xers would rather work in a fast-paced environment with looser boundaries around leadership. Millennial’s are most likely to thrive in a collaborative, creative and positive work culture.
Though these may sound like three totally different office cultures, it is possible to combine the best of all generational preferences by creating a work environment with structures, policies and procedures, paces and rewards that cater to each generation’s strengths and weaknesses.
There really are distinct differences between the generations and their work styles. Successfully blending a multi-generational office culture is as much an art as it is a science. We’ll go deeper into this topic in upcoming installments in this series.