The strengths and weaknesses of the intergenerational workforce

June 26, 2018 Jorge Poyatos

At Cornerstone OnDemand we often talk about the value of diversity and its contributions to the overall organisation. We talk about how diversity can enhance the corporate culture and how companies can effectively manage diversity. The recent gender pay gap reports have demonstrated the importance of gender in the workplace, but gender isn’t the only diversity dimension we should be focusing on.

Intergenerational diversity concerns the different ages within a workforce. In today’s labour market, there are four main generations:

  • Generation T or “Traditionalists” (Born before 1945)
  • Baby Boomers (Born between 1945 and 1965)
  • Generation X (Born between 1966 and 1985)
  • Generation Y or “Millennials” (Born between 1985 and 1997)

With such a variety of generations to manage in today’s workforce, it can be difficult to keep up. Below are some of the strengths and weaknesses of each generation, and how companies can use them to their advantage.

Generation T – “Traditionalists”

Experience, more than anything, is what stands out amongst Generation T in both technical field work and tactical know-how. Thanks to the strong discipline that characterises the members of this generation, they are not only able to inspire and manage workers from a leadership position, but can also carry out coaching or mentoring work for newer members of the team.  The only problem with this generation is that they may become attached to certain conventions and can be reluctant to change.

Baby boomers

Baby Boomers stand out for their rigor, their commitment to results and their great preparation. Although they can sometimes fall into rigid patterns, they are known and respected for their professional maturity, their impeccable network of contacts, and their dedication to their work. This is also the generation that opened the door to the first woman in a leadership position.

Generation X

This generation, often described as the "bridge" between the oldest and the youngest, is the first to recognise the value of teamwork, and encourage collaboration to achieve the company's objectives. Their characteristic of the "middle brother" or "hinge between generations" makes them appeasing and communicative, but a certain absence of defined generational identity can result in a lack of commitment to their organisation.

Generation Y – “Millennials”

Recently, millennials have been the subject of much debate in the world of work. Although this generation has versatility, self-confidence, flexibility, and unprecedented digital skills, they can sometimes lack the capacity to lead teams, especially within intergenerational teams. As identified by a recent Deloitte survey, many millennials do not plan to stick with their current job and they lack a sense of company loyalty. Therefore, it’s important to allow the previous, and more experienced generations guide and help in a way that enhances their skills and reduces their short-term employment.

In short, these generation definitions highlight the need for companies to have a variety of employees from all generations, and take advantage of the different qualities and capabilities offered by each. Knowing how to manage, design, maintain and motivate a team with a combination of skills, attitudes and experience will result in a stronger workforce and contribute to overall business success. 

About the Author

Jorge Poyatos

Since joining Cornerstone, Jorge has been supporting organisations and HR professionals in their digital transformation, driving change and leading clients to a successful digital journey.  "The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking."

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