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Generational differences in the workplace

Age is a crucial part of workplace diversity, but learning how to manage across generations can become a test. One of the biggest challenges you will face in the workforce today, is dealing with how to effectively manage the expectations of your employer and perhaps, some of your fellow work colleagues.

You must always remember that everyone is different however, to have an effective and efficient workforce, we all need to appreciate and understand these differences.

Getting different generations to work together has always been a challenge. When it comes to ‘baby boomers’ and ‘millennials’ though, the test can be even harder. These two groups combined make up more than 60 percent of the construction workforce, one fact remains certain: the relationship between the two is one of our industry’s primary focuses.

When it comes to the construction industry, cohesiveness, trust and teamwork is a must. That's why it’s so important to ensure the workplace is an organised environment. This is done through relationship building.

To help develop these relationships, it is important to understand who the 2 cohorts are and appreciate a little bit of why you are who you are and they are who they are.

Who are baby boomers?

Baby boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — are currently approaching the later stages of their working life. It is likely that the majority of business owners can identify within this demographic.

This group is known to reject traditional ways. However, for as much as traditionalism was rejected, work-focus and conservative attitudes quickly became representative of this group. Not only are baby boomers ingrained with a sense of competitiveness, but they also consistently strive for measurable success. Which, of course, is good for business.

Who are millennials?

Born between 1981 and 1997, millennials are, for the most part, just hitting their adult stride in life. The majority of new employees within the construction industry can identify within this demographic.

Much like baby boomers however, these individuals reject traditional values also. Notably, though, this isn’t necessarily because of improved education, technology and cultural trends.

Rather, it’s through an understanding that all of these factors have to continue to improve. That said, many millennials share a work-focus attitude within a similar vein as baby boomers. The primary difference however, is that this group’s focus on work isn’t as structured. This doesn’t mean that a sense of competitiveness or strive for measurable success isn’t ingrained. It really just means that the two demographic groups are more similar than either would like to admit.

What is important in the workplace

It’s important to realise that we all have our different personalities and behavioural traits. It’s also important to make a conscious effort to understand each person’s needs and contributions individually rather than generationally as a whole. Communication is fundamental to human existence and there is a clear notion that there is a link between quality of communication and quality of your working life and life in general.

The different generations should try to see each other as unique individuals and should treat each other with respect, notwithstanding their differences. Generational differences cannot be changed, but members of different generations can try to understand each other and endorse each other’s values. Each generation can learn from the other.

Baby Boomers are, for instance, experienced, skilled and knowledgeable and Millennials bring their knowledge of technology and their creativity to the table. The different generations must accept that each generation has its inherent strengths and weaknesses.

Understanding, respect and open-mindedness will lead to meaningful communication where generations can motivate each other and bring out the best in each other. If the different generations acknowledge that they can learn from each other, there will be a more positive culture where people respect each other

By giving everyone equal opportunity to participate, the different generations will begin to listen to and appreciate other’s thoughts and expertise.

It’s important to provide everyone with an opportunity to present creative thoughts, concerns, ideas and complaints.

COMPARISONS 

BABY BOOMERS 

At the core of the Boomer energy is experience

MILLENNIALS

At the core of the Millennial energy is potential

 Characteristics
  •  Hard work leads to success
  • Loyal to brands
  • Confident
  • Competitive
  • Rebellious to existing states of affair
  • Digital society
  • Feel entitled to a 'seat at the table'
  • Tend to work on short term goals
  • Put friends and lifestyle ahead of work
  • Job is something done between weekends
  • Easy going and non-committed
Their experiences 
  • Grew up in a time of prosperity
  • Reared to pursue the 'Australian Dream'
  • Micro-managed by parents
  • Born with technology
  • Always rewarded for participation
  • Reared to be high achievers
 Communication style
  • Prefer detailed face to face dialog or via a phone
  • Appreciate in-person meetings
  • Believe 'no news is good news'
  •  Prefer frequent feedback and problem solving via technology instead of phone calls or meetings
 Problems they are facing right now
  •  Dwindling retirement funds
  • Job dislocation
  • Health worries
  • Financially fragile
  • Unemployment
  • Difficulty transitioning from school to career
  • Being taken seriously
  • Peer pressure access to drugs
 Flaws
  • 'Been there, done that' attitude
  • Not always open to new ideas
  • Short attention spans
  • Expect immediate responses
  • Asks 'what's in it for me'
 Turn-offs
  • Constant change
  • Lack of respect for past loyalty
  • Dismissing new ideas because of the lack of experience