Each generation has its own unique patterns and characteristics which have an impact on the workplace in a variety of ways. FPC Bangor is an executive recruiting firm located in Maine and their expertise includes the pulp and paper industry. According to Gilly Hitchcock, owner of FPC Bangor, there are some wide gaps in the approach each generation takes towards their jobs. This paper will discuss the differences among the different generations ranging from veterans to baby boomers and Generation X to Generation Y.
Veterans are generally loyal employees to their employers and are known for working hard. Veterans believe in the intrinsic value of hard work that hinges on traditional qualities such as loyalty, dependability, willingness to learn, teamwork, and a ‘stick to it’ mentality. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are expensive, difficult to manage, resistant to change, and generally don’t like to learn new skills. While they are committed and focused on their careers, they tend to change jobs quite often in order to meet personal success. Veterans’ work ethic is characterized by dedication and loyalty so they are willing to stay in the same job for a long time. They offer skills and knowledge to businesses with their life experience and tend to work longer hours. Many younger people can’t or, more often, won’t offer that.
Generation X enjoys autonomy and freedom. They work to live rather than live to work. This is often frowned upon by the baby boomers, which rather live to work. Generation X prefer a flexible workplace where they value constructive feedback. While baby boomers have the experience, Generation X has the educational qualifications to go with it often holding advanced degrees. Brought up in phase of technological and social change, they are tech-savvy and open to changes such as diversity, challenge, and creative input compared to the baby boomers’ preference for a more rigid and stable work environment. Gen-X see jobs as stepping stones to something else and, consequently, may seek satisfaction elsewhere if their jobs do not satisfy them personally. They tend to be more loyal to themselves and focus on personal goals in which they expect their employer to listen to their needs in order to pay them competitively. Generation Y, or Millennials are known as the technological forces in this world and have a completely different outlook on the workplace.
While both Gen-X and Gen-Y value informal learning opportunities, such as seeking out challenging opportunities, taking the initiative on new projects, networking, and work-life balance, Gen-Y are extremely comfortable with digital technology and are excellent multi-taskers. They prefer text messaging or e-mail rather than having conversations in person. They also prefer taking online classes, conducting web-based meetings, and telecommuting rather than traditional classes or the traditional way of collaborating on work projects. While yearning for success and earning lots of money are one of the top priorities, Gen-Y generally do not tend to stay in one job for very long and lack the desire to work hard as they prefer shortcuts. The need for excitement and stimulation are factors that can make an employee want to stay at a company, otherwise they can easily find another job willing to provide it. Generation Y focuses on entitlements, rewards, and quick promotions. This can make other generations see them as arrogant, selfish, and lazy.
One major difference in the workplace between the veterans/silent generation and the baby boomers compared to Generation X and Generation Y is the concept of work/life balance. A “company first” attitude and long work hours define the work ethic of the veterans and baby boomers, whereas the saying “work hard, play harder” define Generation X and Generation Y.
In a somewhat predictable response, Generation X and Generation Y highly value their personal time over company time. According to a 2006 Employee Review survey by Ranstad, Generation X and Generation Y use the most number of sick days while the veterans and baby boomers take the least.