"We are at the end of the workforce as we know it — meaning we're on the verge of new opportunities," Sarah Sladek, CEO of consulting firm XYZ University, told participants during the second NEW Multigenerational Leadership webinar, "Generation to Generation: Capitalizing on Differences," June 18, 2015.
For the first time in decades, Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) do not represent the majority of the workforce. It's now Generation Y, also known as Millennials (born between 1982 and 1995), who are the majority, and are on their way to representing 75 percent of the global workforce by the year 2025. To leverage everyone's talents, industry leaders and workplace managers must understand and optimize generational differences.
When Baby Boomers came of age, they were the wealthiest, largest generation of their time, raised to pursue the American Dream, Sladek said. Generation X, those born between 1965 and 1981, were born at the crossroads of social change, and value customization, globalization, individuality.
Millennials, or Generation Y, raised in a post-Industrial era driven by technology and innovation, are often misunderstood by older generations. They're often criticized with a host of negative descriptors, from being "lazy" and "annoying" to being "horrible communicators," Sladek said. These notions can be exacerbated by Generation Y's casual approach to the workplace, preferring a free-flowing, even playful environment.
Meanwhile, Boomers and Generation X'ers have been conditioned to regard patience as a professional virtue, while Millennials have been raised in the Google era, with answers and actions at their fingertips.
Few managers understand that Millennials "tend to prefer opportunities to collaborate," Sladek noted, adding that a "lack of positive relationships is the number-one reason most Generation Y's will leave an organization."
How then, to bridge that gap? Sladek advises all teammates to acknowledge that "Generation Y brings to the table new skills, productivity and using time effectively," and that "the ability to collaborate will be the key to your organization's success."
Know that problem-solving capabilities between generations differ, and that will require hearing and understanding everyone's input, she advised. Generation Y has asked "for a voice, not just money."
Boomers and Generation X teammates are a valuable mentoring resource — and can raise their own understanding of younger professionals. Sladek recommends having 30 conversations in 30 days with people under the age of 35.
"For the first time in history, every generation has something to learn, and something to teach," Sladek said.