Employment Outlook: These Five Generations Must Learn to Work Together

This year, for the first time in American history, five generations will be working together. This is touted by some as a social phenomenon, and it brings up many issues in how to work together productively.

Working in the technology industry, Arrow Solutions Group experiences this first hand with our internal staff, clients, and candidates. Technology itself is not the end-all in this new economy, the people who use technology and how they use it must be understood.
Can you name all five of the generations? Many articles have been written detailing each: veterans or traditionalists born between 1922-1945; baby boomers born between 1946-1964; Gen X’ers who entered into the world between 1965-1980; Gen Y’ers or Millennials, were born between 1981-2000 and are no longer the new kids on the block; and next year there will be the fifth generation, the 2020 Gen or Gen Z, born between 1998-2010.

This makes for seven decades worth of different values, work ethics and communication styles in the workforce. Wherever one falls in the generational timeline, the opportunity exists to examine diverse viewpoints and strive to understand them, thereby strengthening relationships and reducing conflict.

For example, the simple act of communication can be complicated by each generation’s preferred method: traditional mail, email, phone calls, instant messaging, texting or Skyping. Some of these communication modes are foreign languages to certain generations and innate necessities to others.

Today, a minority of veterans tap into the latest technology, this may be because veterans grew their businesses using rotary dial phones and written communications. This explains their preference for formal memos and written communication with details spelled out. Newspaper, radio and television keep them up to date.

Boomers have joined the technology bandwagon with varying degrees of resistance and acceptance. Many still use their Rolodex, dial phones and touch-tone phones. They love face-to-face dialogue and communicating via direct phone calls, having a “call me anytime” attitude. Boomers stay abreast of current happenings via newspaper and television with some Internet usage thrown in.

Generation X’ers entered the workforce with cellphone in hand, and they eagerly and willingly adopt many hi-tech trends. Calling or emailing them on their cellphone is usually the best way to get a hold of them, as they prefer direct and immediate communication. Many have adopted preferences for instant messaging and texting. About 50 percent of Gen X’ers still read a daily newspaper while a larger percentage remain current via television and Internet.

Millennials are by far the most technical generation in the workforce to date, having grown up with the Internet, picture phones and email. They don’t want meetings unless it’s a “GoToMeeting.” They have mastered multitasking and are the most connected, readily sharing life’s adventures via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media (often all at the same time).

The newest members of the workforce, those in Generation 2020, were born into a high-tech communications world and are connected via social media, IM, hashtags, iPhones, tablets, and other devices. Consider that they were using the Internet in kindergarten and one can begin to image the impact of technology on this workforce. While the characteristics of Gen 2020 are still evolving, one thing is certain: They will expect the latest technology as they enter the workforce.

Knowing each generation’s history and preferences, we can see the opportunities working together can bring. Veterans and boomers hold most of a company’s history, and these experienced generations can share business intelligence gathered over the years. Gen X’ers, Millennials and Gen 2020 possess the technological savvy to expand our knowledge in the ever-increasing hi-tech world. Understanding the differences each has can help us to use technology more effectively and bridge the gaps between each generation.

Joann Pintz-Cole, operations administrator; Brittney Souza, client services manager; and Jen Brazinsky, director of recruiting, all of Arrow Solutions Group, contributed to this column. Arrow Solutions Group specializes in recruiting IT professionals and engineers for companies in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota. Contact Arrow Solutions Group at 406-839-9000 or info@arrowsolutionsgroup.com.