Different people from multiple generations sitting in a row
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto.com/Ljupco

By Cayley Dow

Our March article, “The Future of Work”, created a stir with readers as Generation Alpha hitting the workforce was mentioned. How do we manage the preferences of yet another generation, when leaders are already managing the convergence of the prior four generations? In this diverse landscape, it’s imperative we understand to effectively navigate this kaleidoscope of work means you need to engage and harness the opportunities each generation brings.

Baby Boomers were post-war babies. As such, they value equal rights and opportunity. They epitomize dedication, resilience, and a wealth of industry knowledge. They thrive on structure and hierarchy but may struggle with adapting to rapid technological advancements. Leading Baby Boomers means honouring their experience, providing opportunities for mentorship, and bridging the generation gap by offering training in digital literacy and new technologies.

Gen X, born between 1965 and 1980, are the first generation where their mothers worked outside of the home. They were termed “latch-key kids,” spending the after-school hours caring for themselves. Characterized by their independence, adaptability, and entrepreneurial spirit, they value work-life balance and autonomy. Seeing their parents get laid off by corporate downsizing events, they may harbour skepticism towards authority. Leading Gen X involves fostering a culture of trust and independence, offering work-life balance, rewarding their skills over than their work ethic, and providing skill development opportunities.

Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, came of age in a period of economic expansion.  Many grew up as children of divorce. Kept busy as kids, they were the first generation of children with schedules. They’re renowned for their tech-savviness, creativity and desire for purpose-driven work. They seek meaningful experiences, rapid career progression and a supportive work environment. Leading millennials requires embracing their digital fluency, offering opportunities for skill development, and creating a culture of transparency and open communication. Not only do they value balance with work and life, but balance with work, life, community involvement and self-development. Flex time, job sharing and sabbaticals will be requested more by this generation. 

Gen Z, born after 1996, only know a world with social networking, text messaging and smart technology, representing the first true digital natives. Characterized by their entrepreneurial mindset, digital fluency and desire for instant gratification, they value authenticity, diversity and social responsibility. Leading Gen Z entails leveraging technology in the workplace, providing real-time feedback and recognition and fostering a sense of belonging through inclusive practices and community engagement.

Enter Generation Alpha, born from 2010 onwards. Already facing huge challenges they’re shaping the future with their innate comfort with technology, environmental consciousness and global interconnectedness. While their entry into the workforce is just beginning, anticipating their needs and preferences will be essential for future-proofing our teams. Leading Gen Alpha will likely involve embracing remote work and virtual collaboration, nurturing their creativity and curiosity and satisfying their need for social responsibility.

Challenges abound when leading a multi-generational workforce, from bridging communication gaps to managing differing work styles and expectations. However, by fostering a culture of respect, flexibility and continuous learning, we can transform these challenges into opportunities for growth
and innovation. 

Cayley Dow is the founder of Thrivity Inc. (thrivityhr.com), a human resources consulting and coaching firm that helps service-oriented businesses to thrive in the ever-evolving world of work.


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