The need is more common than ever – our generational lines are clearer than at any point in America’s history, the generational mix in the workforce is about equal, and that means offices need to accommodate the differentiated needs of each generation at the same time.
In this blog series on the needs of various generations in the workplace, this is an overview. We’ll be putting together some resources in the near future about what each generation likes in a bit more detail.
According to the Pew Research Center…
- Baby Boomers: 25 percent of the workforce
- Generation X: 33 percent of the workforce
- Millennials: 35 percent of the workforce
- Silent Generation & Generation Z: 7 percent of the workforce
That means we’re just past the tipping point where millennials comprise a plurality of the workforce in the US, but only just.
So, what’s each generation like?
Born between 1944 and 1964, boomers are known for a strong work ethic. They’re work-centric, independent, goal oriented, and competitive. Because of the massive affluence of the middle class during the time boomers grew up, they value structural fairness and equal opportunity.
What’s that mean for the workplace?
For the Boomers in your office, provide quiet offices and keep the music to a distraction-free and pleasant channel. Satisfy their competitive side with quarterly profit sharing, Employee of the Month awards, and team sports or outings. Boomers crave face to face time, so collaborative office spaces and modular work stations will suit them well. Don’t introduce too much Slack or video conferencing–it starts to wear thin.
Born between 1965 and 1980 (some would peg this latter number a bit later), Generation X tends to be better educated than Baby Boomers, with over 60 percent having attended college. They’re individualistic, technologically adept, flexible, and values work/life balance.
Gen Xers appreciate nostalgia and remember the time before the Internet, so some offline work and unplugged meetings are appreciated and will stimulate creativity. However, they love and appreciate innovative technology, such as integrated hardware and data cables, invisible wiring, adjustable height desks, and spaces that contribute to their productivity. Give them comfortable furniture so they can be effective team leaders and move efficiently up the corporate ladder to get what they deserve.
Born after 1980, millennials value flexibility in the jobs they take on, meaningful work (money isn’t the sole motivating factor for which jobs they’ll take), and dislike rigorous hiring processes, corporate buzzwords, and a lack of feedback in the workplace.
Millennials basically relaunched the concept of the open office and their desire for light, minimal and fun spaces has been tarnished by the “ugh, ping pong tables?” think pieces in media. But Millennials can encourage work-centric Boomers to take breaks, give positive feedback to Gen Xer’s leadership, and will happily tweet about their work experience to build the brand. They are team players who are introducing equity as a higher standard of equality. They’ll love communal work tables, bright and bold offices, and conference rooms that break the mold.