Managing five generations in the workplace - Canadian Government Executive
HRManagement
January 4, 2017

Managing five generations in the workplace

A recent report by office supply chain Staples Canada indicates that employers are now more likely than not going to face the challenge of managing five generations in the workplace.

With baby boomers continuing to hang onto their office desks and a new crop of younger workers banging at the office door, employers need to formulate a realistic plan that caters to the workplace motivations and behaviours of a very diverse workforce.

A recent report by office supply chain Staples Canada indicates that employers are now more likely than not going to face the challenge of managing five generations in the workplace.

The five generations, generation Z (under 18 years old), generation Y/millennials (18-33 years old), generation X (34-50 years old), baby boomers (51-70 years old), and in some instances even the greatest generation (over 70 years old) do share some similarities in workplace preferences; however, there are also marked differences, and employers need to make sure they are meeting their workers’ needs, according to the Staples Business Advantage 2016 Workplace Index.

Staples contracted Morar Consulting to conduct online interviews among 1,995 employees in the United States (936 were classified as general officer workers and 1,059 as business decision makers) and 1,110 in Canada (468 general officer workers and 542 business decision makers). The survey has a margin of error of +/- 1.8 per cent at 95 per cent confidence limits.

The document can also be very useful for office managers and HR professionals in many technology firms as it sheds further light into what motivates young and more mature talents and provides some guidance on how to effectively manage people.

For example, the researchers found that baby boomers (41 per cent) are more motivated by having a sense of purpose at work than their younger counterparts, generation X (27 per cent) and millennials (23 per cent).

“It’s important for employers to remember there are several generations represented in today’s workforce,” said Scott D’Cunha, vice president of marketing, e-commerce and communications, Staples Business Advantage Canada. “While these generations do have much in common, there are also key differences and organizations must take these differences into account to ensure a happy and productive workforce.”

Here are a few highlights from the index:

Burnout

Burnout is prevalent among the three generations with the most workforce members — millennials, gen X, and boomers. Forty-one per cent of millennials, 39 per cent of gen X, and 29 per cent of boomers say burnout is motivating them to look for a new job.

To avoid burnout, boomers and gen x workers would like their employers to lower their workloads and provide more time to complete tasks. On the other hand, millennials prefer to have more flexible schedules.

Motivations

Boomers are most motivated by having a sense of purpose at work, followed by salary. Gen x and millennials, both rank salary as their top motivator. Gen X ranked a sense of purpose second, while millennials listed passion as their second most important motivator.

The ability to work from home is crucial for millennials, as that is where they are most inspired to work. However, millennials are outliers in this aspect, as gen X and boomers prefer a traditional workplace and are most inspired at their desk in the office.

Office design

By now, it’s common knowledge that the layout and design of a workplace impact the productivity and satisfaction of workers.

All generations share the desire for a well-designed office, Staples found.

Forty-nine per cent of millennials, 48 per cent of gen X, and 37 per cent of boomers want their employers to pay more attention to office design.

Natural light is the most important office feature for all three generations. Boomers and gen X are also interested in private spaces and more ergonomic furniture, while millennials cited standing desks and lounge areas as preferred design choices.

Wellness

Workforce wellness is another critical contributor to productivity.

Seventy-four per cent of millennials, 64 per cent of gen X, and 51 per cent of boomers say the availability of a wellness program, including the availability of fresh foods, is a selling point when looking for a new job.

After fresh foods, gen x and millennials look for fitness tracking wearable devices and onsite gyms.

Many millennials (49 per cent) and gen X (50 per cent) feel they have too much work to take the time to get up from their desks. However, only 41 per cent of boomers feel the same way.

Breaks are important as more than 70 per cent of each generation agrees that taking a break makes them feel more productive throughout the day.

Employers can encourage workers to take breaks by providing comfortable break rooms fully stocked with snacks and drinks so employees can relax and recharge, according to Staples.

As a new generation of talent prepares itself for the workforce, brushing up on intergenerational management best practices will be key for the successful business, according to Jacob Morgan, best-selling author of The Future of Work, futurist, and co-founder of the Future of Work Community.

“It’s promising that all generations said they think working in a five generation workplace is more fun, creative, inspiring, trusting, and fosters an environment of learning,” he said “Managing five generations poses a challenge for employers, and as gen Z continues to enter the workplace in larger numbers, it’s critical for organizations to ensure they understand their workforce’s needs.”

For the full Staples report, go to https://go.staplesadvantage.com/workplaceindex2016

About this author

Nestor Arellano

Nestor is a Toronto-based journalist who specializes in writing about technology and business. He is the editor of Vanguard Magazine and the associate editor of IT in Canada and a regular contributor to CGE.

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