3 Reasons Generational Differences Matter at Work

I don’t know what your Twitter feed looks like, but mine is full of much more rancor and controversy than I prefer.

Recently in a Tweet, one person showed a picture of a slide illustrating generational differences in the workplace and asked the question “Why do we continue to give credibility to these stereotypes? We work with individuals, not entire generations.”

I typically scroll past the controversial topics on Twitter. I don’t engage. But after a while, I replied to that Tweet. And as I’ve thought about it since, this blog post is my more elaborate point of view on the topic.

Generational differences DO matter in the workplace because:

Programs and processes are designed for audiences and groups, not for individuals.

The more you know about the audience (or segment of the population) you’re designing for, the more you can tailor a process or interaction to their needs or even preferences.

For example, when you’re developing a communications plan, does your target audience prefer to provide feedback using technology (ex: text or an app)? or in person, face to face? Sometimes you can accommodate both, but not always. There is a very high likelihood generational differences influence answers to those questions.

Your employment brand must appeal to the demographic you want to hire.

Certain industries have struggled with hiring over the last decade or so because they are perceived by younger workers as undesirable and not future-oriented. This has forced them to innovate to attract talent.

When your goal is to hire experienced workers, your employment brand should reflect the characteristics of your target population (ex: GenX or Baby Boomers). When your primary hiring target population comes from college campuses (undergraduates or graduate students), your employment brand should adjust accordingly (ex: now for GenZ or some late Millenials in graduate school).

The war for talent is real.

Some parts of the United States are now being described as having “worker deserts“. When companies struggle mightily to get talent in the door, they must invest in retaining their people. What those employees value in their employment experience varies significantly.

For example, flexibility in work location and time of day is considered almost a given by most individuals who comprise GenX and GenZ. For organizations primarily run today by Baby Boomers, that may be a difficult adjustment to make for your team or department when that is not already part of the company culture.

Betsy Winkler is a Partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @BetsyWinkler1