by Lauren Holloway
Are generational differences in the workplace really as big a deal as everyone makes them out to be?
Because of quick and accessible sources of information, such as popular literature, younger generations tend to be painted with the bad brush. At many workplaces in New Zealand, there are
up to four different generations working alongside each other, and it is necessary that these cohorts can work cohesively.
Considering the different economic and technological contexts that have coloured the upbringing of veterans, baby boomers, those from Generation X and Generation Y, it is not surprising that
these generations generally carry different traits.
Although differences in qualities do exist between different generations, underlying principles have remained constant. People across all generations are loyal and hardworking. They are dedicated to their careers and seek advancement.
With changing employee attitudes, values and behaviours because of environmental influences, organisations must learn how to effectively use an increasingly diverse workforce in order to survive and prosper.
Although research has shown that younger generations are more creative and entrepreneurial, Generation X-ers and Y-ers are often depicted in a negative light. They are often seen by older generations as lazy, entitled and disrespectful.
However, when you consider the context that has shaped the youth of today, you can see that those negative traits are, more often than not, distorted.
Facing ever-increasing costs from student loans and decreasing demand for fulltime labourers, youth today graduated into a recession.
However, factors such as an increase in higher education, faster technology and constant communication have built a generation that is constantly seeking to learn and advance their skills.
Hardworking and cooperative, they thrive on change and like variety and meaning in their work. In a prospering and progressive world, they live to work, rather than work to live like generations before them.
Although differences do exist between generational cohorts, they are differences that can be embraced and used to build a more successful organisation.
To survive in today’s constantly changing business world, organisations need skills found in all cohorts. Promotion must be on merit rather than age or experience, and employees must be recognised and treated as important individuals.
We all share a common humanity and seek to better ourselves and the world around us. Both similar and contrasting qualities across generations should be embraced, rather than scorned, by older employers who seek to build an organisation that can survive the flux of the
modern world.
Lauren Holloway, a former student of St Mary’s College, Auckland, is studying for a conjoint law and politics degree at Otago University.