The concept of ‘multi-generational workplace’ is not a myth and there is the introduction of a fresh generation of workers into the workplace every five years. Unlike yesteryears when only the opinions of the senior people with experience mattered, companies are now more accommodative of the beliefs of the younger generations. Hence, today’s workplace has varied approaches, ideologies and perceptions competing for space. Most organizations have a hierarchy that is structured based on age. By the year 2020, it is said the average age of Indians would be 27 years, and there is bound to be inter-generational clashes. How can companies make this shift without disrupting the work culture?
The workplace is presently being served by the Millennials, Gen X and the Baby Boomers. These generations are wired differently, and each generation looks at their life from a different perspective. The way they approach and execute work itself is different. As a recruiter that handles a workforce that is a commixture of these three generations, the key differences between these generations stem from:
- Mindset: Each generation has its own values they carry to their workspace. Baby boomers value material possessions and individuality, while Gen X values a work-life balance, something the previous generation couldn’t maintain since this post-War generation of Baby Boomers were workaholics. Meanwhile, millennials are all about instant gratification, instantaneous feedback, communication and learning.
- Work ethics: Baby boomers tailored their work ethics around discipline, loyalty and hard work. Gen Xer’s foundation of work ethic was maintaining their personal life along with that of their professional life, and they are also very task-oriented and don’t enjoy being micromanaged. On the other hand, millennials revel in multi-tasking while also being validated for their efforts publicly. Millennials also look to professional development through life-enriching experiences.
- Adaptability to change: Baby Boomers are known to be extremely resistant to change and enjoy their comfort levels. Gen Xer’s, though, are much more open to change and will take time to adjust and accommodate the changes. Millennials are the most open to the changes and face these challenges head-on with gusto.
While many believe that having people from across generations under one roof is a hindrance, it must be kept in mind that progressive and successful teams are not the amalgamation of individuals with similar mindsets. Having a team with varied experience, skill-sets and creativity only strengthens the team and complements the weakness of each team member. A multi-generational workforce ensures that where millennials lack experience, Gen Xers can provide mentorship to bridge the gap. Millennials can provide their digital assistance to even the Baby Boomers to stay updated on the new technology.
Keeping the strengths and weaknesses in mind, what are the factors recruiters must keep in mind while hiring from different generations?
- Should not consciously look at having a generational balance; the core focus must be on having employees that fit the cultural environment as well as the job description. They must work on having employees that understand and persevere to achieve the goals the company aims to achieve
- Age must not be a criterion while hiring, a habitual mistake that most recruiters make is hiring based on the age of the applicant. Age doesn’t dictate if an applicant will have the skills required for the job. While they could have the experience, the skills required for basic functions of the job may not be inherent with them.
- Skills are not innate and honed over time; experience does give an edge to a candidate, but recruiters need to be cautious of the candidate’s basic skills necessary for the job. Recruiters need to be wise while choosing between a millennial who doesn’t have experience but has the skills and a Gen Xer who has the experience but lacks the skill.
- Does the job role require more of a seasoned professional, or is it more technical that requires new-age skills? In cases where recruiters weigh between skill and experience, it is best suited for them to view the job description. If the core function of the job requires negotiation or networking, it would be wiser to choose a candidate with experience. While a job that requires coding or any specific skill set that is technical in nature, it is best suited for the candidate who possesses the skill.
A multigenerational workforce is a boon for most organizations as they would be able to keep ideas flowing and being in new-age working methods. This age diversity creates a space for symbiotic growth of knowledge and skills amongst colleagues. With the growth of employees, there is a proportional growth of the organization. Thus, it is for the recruiters to maintain a balance of choosing between experience and skills, and hire individuals who match the core qualities of the organization.