Demographic and social trends have had a significant impact on our workforce. For the first time in history we have four generations working side-by-side in many organizations – Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gereration X and Millennials/Generation Y. Each brings different experiences, perspectives, expectations and behaviors to the workplace. The differing views and potential conflicts inherent in the much written about “generation gaps” between these groups are discussed but the author believes that they pale in comparison to the opportunity to create real competitive advantage by effectively managing and capitalizing on the strengths of each.

The article touches on demographic and other trends involving these four groups, including the aging workforce, Baby Boomer retirements and a demand for greater work-life balance by the younger generations. The article stresses that these must be met with a greater focus on enhancing employee skill sets, particularly those that facilitate communication, cooperation and understanding between the generational groups. The attributes of each group are discussed in some detail as are the significant life events that shaped their collective values and expectations. The article also explores the leadership style preferences of each generation and the importance of understanding the differences and similarities found between these generational preferences when creating development programs for current and future leaders.

The keystone of this article is its exploration of how managers can use the different strengths, values and perspectives of these groups to positively affect corporate culture, employee recruitment, worker engagement and customer service. In furtherance of this, the article references the groundbreaking survey by the Center for Creative Leadership of more than 3000 organizational leaders over a seven year period to determine how organizations use similarities and differences among generations to rally their talent in support of company mission, vision and goals.

The article also provides readers with an overview of recent studies that focus on identifying those policies, benefits and programs that have proven most effective in successfully retaining and leveraging the talent of all four generations. Key points involve work relationships, work environment fit (career growth, challenge, decision-making opportunities, etc.), training and development programs, work-life balance and cafeteria type benefits, with different configurations appealing to different generations.

Source: Staff, HR Magazine; Mar, 2009, v54 i3 pS1.

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