The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

4 Generations in the Workplace at Once

It is common for organizations to have four generations working side by side in 2014. Economic challenges and improved healthcare have created a situation where workers no longer retire at 60 or 65. People are living much longer, and the senior employees enjoy the social interactions of the workplace. Given the lack of a mandatory retirement age, we often find employees working into their 70’s if they are able. There are more workers delaying starting a family, and we often see first time parents in their late 30’s and early 40’s. Entry-level employees are entering the workforce with a set of priorities that are often different than their managers, as they increasingly demonstrate a value of work/life balance in exchange for high salaries.

Your HR executive is responsible for both embracing and managing the generational opportunities for your management team. HR should highlight each of the workplace generations in a way that adds value to the bottom line and ensures a smooth and productive succession from the executives of today to the leaders of the future. This should occur formally through training and performance management, as well as informally through group projects and mentoring programs. HR should take the lead with the management team to tap into the resources you have, and provide opportunities so that your managers can value and embrace the talent of each generation.

The diversity of age is a great asset in the workforce when acknowledged and embraced. Each generation brings a different slant to the workplace. HR departments should be working together to harness the power of each group. If the right environment is created and opportunities for sharing and cross training exist, millennials will learn the work ethic of the baby-boomers, and the baby boomers will learn the speed and access information retrieval from the millennials.  We should treat our work environment as an incubator for this type of critical cross-pollination of the soft skills of work.

Many CEOs say they don’t want millennials in their workforce They are perceived as lazy, have an entitlement attitude, and just don’t have the work ethic we expect. But think back to the late 1960s: CEOs couldn’t imagine that the hippies of Woodstock would ever show up for work everyday. Today we can’t get them to leave our workplaces! Millennials bring great skills to the workforce including embracing technology, understanding of a global business interchange and the interest in climbing to the top quickly. These are competencies to embrace, and you should expect your HR team to ensure the values of each generation are celebrated and shared throughout the organization.

Work with HR to embrace the value that each generation can bring.  You will find your workforce will be stronger for the diversity it brings to the organization.

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