This blog was inspired by the Becoming an Employer of Choice preconference university led by Holly Green, CEO and Managing Director of The Human Factor at the 2015 National Council Conference.
In recent years, we have witnessed a fundamental shift in organizations across the globe. The way we work is changing. Our business environments are evolving rapidly as four generations collide in the workplace- driving the need for an overhaul of the traditional leadership styles. Holly Green, CEO of the Human Factor, describes the old leadership style as one of “administrating and directing” versus today’s required model of “guiding and inspiring.”
Understanding today’s multifaceted workforce is the first step to developing an effective leadership strategy. The leaders who adapt quickly to the management style this workforce demands will be able to harness their diversity to create hyper-functioning teams that fuel organizational innovation and growth. The generational distribution of today’s workforce, and their respective common traits are broken down below:
1. Traditionalists: 5%
Traditionalists have either worked for the same employer or in the same field their entire professional career, and therefore, thrive on stability. They are characterized by hard work, dedication, sacrifice, respect for rules, and honor.
2. Baby Boomers: 25%
Although nearing the traditional retirement age, Baby-Boomers continue to occupy a significant portion of today’s workforce. They are loyal employees, yet are more focused on personal growth and gratification over the goals of the company, making them more likely to switch jobs.
3. Gen X: 40%
This generation is more independent and confident than any previously known generations. They adapt quickly to change and are more accepting of diversity. Gen Xers need immediate gratification, leading them to sacrifice their personal lives for advancement and goal achievement at work.
4. Millenials: 30%
Millienials are one of the most important groups to keep tabs on as their influence is projected to grow exponentially. PWC reports that Millennials will occupy 50% of the workforce by 2020 and as much as 75% by 2030. This group is adaptive to change, tech-savvy, achievement-oriented, diverse, and communal. These traits present themselves at work through the need for independence and autonomy, challenge and variety, entrepreneurial efforts, continual development of skills, distrust of hierarchy and authority, lack of loyalty and unwillingness to commit, desire for a fun and communal workplace, and most importantly, their need for work-life balance.
A good understanding of the generational differences is key, but the biggest challenge leaders have today is figuring out how to help them work together in top-performing teams. If managed well, their different skill sets and traits can be a powerful force. If managed poorly, clashing teams could contribute to low productivity, a tense work environment, and increased turnover. Leaders must leverage their respective talents by understanding and identifying complimentary, cross-generational teams that engage all members and optimize contributions.