Musings of a Recruiter – what’s the real difference in the generations within the workplace?
Why “Millennials” and “Baby Boomers” are more similar than you think…
It’s a well known fact that millennials have a very different outlook to working life, compared to the generation of baby boomers before them. Growing up with technology has lead to a need for knowledge NOW, and an eagerness in work life that often isn’t even attempted to be disguised. Generally speaking, millennials expect to work in a job for a lot less time than baby boomers do, perhaps no longer than two or three years. Millennials have a higher expectation from life, having been brought up with parents who have most likely told them “You can achieve whatever you want in life, if you simply work hard enough”. Their parents grew up in a time where you could buy a house at the age of 23 for £25000!
There are endless articles about the subject of “millennials and baby boomers” online, and quite frankly, they get rather repetitive and dull after a while. The point is; no matter how many common factors you focus in on, it’s never right as an employer to generalise a group by their age and assume you understand their wants and needs based on what ‘category’ they fall into. This will lead to failure in the long run, and a breakdown of understanding in the work relationship. There are undoubtedly some things that make sense about the differences. Growing up with the internet, emails, smart phones and advanced technology is of course going to have an affect on the generation. But it’s important to see this as a benefit, and apply positive initiatives to this modern world of work.
Employee engagement and consideration of the things that mean most to an individual is the key to success in employment, and keeping the good employees happy and for a longer period of time. Treating each person as an individual is vital – not compartmentalising them into generalised groups that don’t apply to them. These days, most people, whatever age, want flexible working hours that can fit around their life. This is no secret, and there is no mystery as to why.
Generally, baby boomers’ strengths are identified as:
– Optimism in the workplace
– Their willingness to work long hours
– Loyalty to a company or organisation
Millennials strengths on the other hand, are generally identified as:
– Skilled in technology
– Very self-confident with the attitude that: “If I don’t know it, I can learn it.”
– Adaptability to change and happy with no set routine
Most of these points seem fairly reasonable and can be applied to a lot of people who fall into each generation and employers should definitely expect to apply different strategies when dealing with each candidate.
However, the main thing to realise and remember that this is all generational generalisation – meaning that no one set rule can be applied to an individual. Some “baby boomers” want flexibility and remote working, some “millennials” want to stay in the same job for ten years rather than two. The best way to improve and maintain the employee relationship is to have regular catch up meetings to ask what methods are best for that person. Assumptions are a crime!
There are a number of questions employers can regularly ask to make sure they’re addressing the needs of their employees, whatever generation they fall into:
– What do you want to achieve this year?
– What are your goals in your current role?
– How can we help you reach your targets and achieve your goals?
– Do you need any extra support?
– Are your current hours working for you, would you like to consider a flexible working plan?
– Do you have any questions about the way things are being run?
– Are there any problems with your current schedule?
– Do you have any suggestions about how we can make things better?
To sum up, don’t be one of those employers that goes on about millennials and baby boomers. Millennials generally find it quite boring, and understand that every employee is completely different to the next. The biggest investment in time you can give is spending the time to get to know each person, and regularly check in to see if things have changed and what their plans for the future are.
A prepared and honest workforce is a productive and happy workforce, which is ultimately the most important thing anyway.