Come Together – Coping With Multiple Generations in One Work Space


In 1969, the Beatles released “Come Together”. Now, more than ever, we are faced with the challenge of making various generations ‘work’ under one vision, one company. Different opinions, different ways of looking at life and completely different upbringings coming together for 40 hours a week—that can seem overwhelming. With ‘open concept’ making its way into the office scene, now more than ever, generation x, y and z’ers are expected to get along, get creative and come up with solutions together. Rather than viewing this as a problem, I challenge you to view this as a definitive advantage.

First, let’s look at how these three generations are defined:

Generation X
Born: 1966-1976
Coming of Age: 1988-1994
Age in 2015: 39 to 49
Current Population: 63.7 million

Known as the generation with the lowest voting participation rate of any generation, Gen X’ers were quoted by Newsweek as “the generation that dropped out without ever turning on the news or tuning in to the social issues around them.” Gen X is often characterized by high levels of skepticism, “what’s in it for me” attitudes.

Gen X’ers are arguably the best educated generation with 29% obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher (6% higher than the previous cohort). And, with that education and a growing maturity they are starting to form families with a higher level of caution and pragmatism than their parents demonstrated. Concerns run high over avoiding broken homes, kids growing up without a parent around and financial planning.

Generation Y, Echo Boomers or Millenniums
Born: 1977-1994
Coming of Age: 1998-2006
Age in 2015: 21-38
Current Population: 80 million

The largest cohort since the Baby Boomers, Gen Y kids are known as incredibly sophisticated, technology wise, immune to most traditional marketing and sales pitches…as they not only grew up with it all, they’ve seen it all and been exposed to it all since early childhood. Despite earlier assumptions, Gen Y’ers are brand loyal, they research before making a purchase and they appreciate authenticity.  They are often judged as being less loyal to employers as they average 8-10 jobs/careers in their lifetime.

Generation Z
Born: 1995-2012
Coming of Age: 2013-2020
Age in 2004: 3-20
Current Population: 23 million and growing rapidly

While we don’t know much about Gen Z yet…we know a lot about the environment they are growing up in. This highly diverse environment will make the grade schools of the next generation the most diverse ever. Higher levels of technology will make significant inroads in academics allowing for customized instruction and enough history to make a difference in success. It’s the age of the 3D printer, nothing is impossible and they know it!

How do we make all of this work to our advantage?

  1. Creativity: you’ve got a diverse group of (a) smart, pragmatics (b) sophisticated with technology and (c) dreamers all in one room!  If you’ve got a problem, they will likely be able to solve it! If you want to strategize, discuss marketing ideas, you have ample opportunity to receive points of view from different levels of people with different levels of experience!
  2. Experience: speaking of experience, you have individuals spanning the gamut from 1966 to the year 2000.  People who’ve lived a wide array of life events making them extremely valuable in what they have to offer you.  Your Gen X’ers are super loyal, you can count on them to lead the team.  Your Gen Y’ers, while less likely to stay in one place forever, have much to offer in the way of efficiency, procedures and innovation. Your Gen Z’ers have yet to show what they will bring but their ability to learn, and multitask is beyond impressive.
  3. One generation learning from the other: Gen X will teach Gen Y about fiscal responsibility and Gen Z about communication.  Gen Y will teach Gen X about innovation in a non-scary way and Gen Z about socializing in a business environment.  Gen Z will teach the other 2 about every efficiency known to man!

If you run an organization that is lucky enough to have individuals from each of the groups, do not be concerned about the gaps or the lack of understanding between them. Rather, encourage them to discuss creatively, share their experiences and teach each other what they know!



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