Exploring Generational Differences in a Digital World
Generational diversity can have detrimental effects on a business, especially if these differences are not understood or addressed. Analyzing and comparing why certain age groups think and act the way they do can make or break your company.
Here’s a quick breakdown of some generations different career aspirations, means of communication and level of technology use:
(Born after 1995)
Freedom and flexibility
Security and stability
Attitude toward technology
Early information technology (IT) adaptors
Entirely dependent on IT; limited grasp of alternatives
Google glass, nano-computing, 3D printing, driverless cars
Test messaging or email
Online mobile (text messaging)
Workplaces are more generationally diverse than ever before. And when intergenerational conflict occurs, it can keep schedules, products and ideas from moving forward. Here’s what you need to know to cohesively communicate with people from every generation:
Each generation has different experiences and perspectives, especially when it comes to technology.
A study shows that more than 90% of millennials, 68% of baby boomers, and 40% of traditionalists own smartphones – yes, a very drastic difference.
It’s no secret that younger generations are very technologically savvy and heavily rely on modern technology in their day-to-day life.
It’s also no secret that older generations may be slower to adapt to the continually evolving digital world than others. Think about how much you know about smartphones compared to, say, your grandpa (yeah, there’s a big difference).
- Traditionalists tend to be largely disengaged with technology. They are more prone to use desktop computers, landline phones and fax machines in the workplace.
- Baby boomers grew up with early information technology (IT) adaptors and are not likely to use social media at work.
- Gen X is seemingly the first generation that understands technology considerably more than its previous generations. They most likely prefer using desktop computers when working.
- Millennials are digital natives. They love the freedom and flexibility that technology allows and are most likely to use a smartphone or tablet.
- Gen Z was born into today’s digital age, so they grew up understanding and evolving with modern technology.
With each new generation comes a new group of even more technologically savvy people than before. Because of this, it can present challenges when trying to create a cohesive work environment with employees of all ages.
Millennials grew up using technology. Baby boomers did not.
Older generations may have a hard time adapting to modern technology because they’re not used to it. But they can sometimes have an even harder time wanting to use it because they already know how to accomplish what they need to get accomplished without it.
Surveys have found that older adults face a unique barrier when adopting new technologies – a lack of confidence. This can enable traditionalists, baby boomers and even Gen X to stray away from learning and adapting to modern technology.
But this doesn’t mean companies should avoid hiring or fire older employees. Help them gain confidence. Provide training sessions or create videos to walk employees through the online tools or apps your business uses. Give them the opportunity to succeed and you may be surprised.
Every generation prefers a different means of communication.
- Traditionalists tend to prefer formal letters. However, this is obviously not an effective way to reach employers or customers.
- Baby boomers prefer talking on the phone.
- Gen X typically uses text messaging or emails to communicate with others.
- Millennials generally prefer to use their smartphones to text one another.
- Gen Z typically uses FaceTime and text messages to communicate.
Yes, certain generations prefer to use different tools to communicate than other generations. However, solving this issue can be relatively easy for companies to solve.
Company leaders need to…pick one. Yes, it’s that easy!
If you find that the majority of your company thinks emailing is the quickest and easiest way to communicate with one another, then choose email. If the majority prefers texts, use texts. If using multiple mediums for communication is best, do that.
You want to pick what is most effective for the company as a whole. And if certain employees aren’t up to speed on how to use that communication medium, teach them.
Independence vs Collaboration
When working with several generations, considering how a person’s typical work style and needs might differ from another is essential. With the right information, you can keep your employees happy and give them the proper tools to maximize productivity.
Let’s discuss the generational differences regarding independent and collaborative work:
- Traditionalists prefer collaboration.
They are more likely to be loyal and stick with one employer for as long as possible. As we transition to older generations, this tends to become less true. Traditionalists also prefer working as part of a team to focus on longer term projects as opposed to working individually.
- Baby boomers prefer independence.
Baby boomers want and expect to be promoted more quickly than older generations, and there is less of an emphasis on loyalty to their companies and a more “me-oriented” mentality.
They place a big emphasis on individual performance, and their identity is oftentimes defined by their profession. Baby boomers tend to care less about loyalty and switch employers more often than traditionalists.
- Gen X prefers independence.
In recent years, Gen X has begun replacing boomers in managerial positions. They have also proved to be more independent than traditionalists and baby boomers. They value authority less than their predecessors and are very likely to walk away from an inflexible workplace.
- Millennials prefer collaboration.
Unlike boomers and Gen X, millennials crave interaction and collaboration. They enjoy fast paced environments, and they sometimes choose jobs based on how technologically savvy the workplace is.
Obviously, the desire to work independently or as part of a team differs from generation to generation. However, it doesn’t need to be either/or.
Create a work environment that does both. Certain projects can be accomplished by one person while others necessitate a team. It may be smart to delegate individual projects to the employees that prefer it, and vice versa.
You should also take into account that traditionalists and baby boomers prefer to stick to a traditional schedule while younger generations desire an easily adapted workplace that’s always changing.
Creating a balance between traditional procedures and a flexible, creative workspace will keep all employees happy. This might take some trial and error before getting it right, but it’s a very accomplishable goal.
Teams collaborate more effectively when they understand where the other person is coming from. Analyzing and understanding the generational differences between your employees is key to creating a cohesive work environment. Don’t allow the technical divide between age groups stop your business from succeeding or moving forward.
Always listen to the wants and needs of your employers. This can help identify the root of your problem, or, for companies that haven’t experienced any issues, it can prevent problems from occurring in the future.