With an intern to a retiree working side by side, today’s workforce is more age-diverse than ever.
At one end, an aging population and an increase in the legal retirement age, and at the other, people taking their first steps on their career paths.
Where does it take us? To a growing number of age-diverse workplaces and rising awareness of the issue in question.
In light of the rapid changes in the labor market, reexamination of this important topic is necessary.
At LiveCareer, we surveyed over 1,000 employees to investigate:
- General attitudes toward the multigenerational workplace.
- Benefits and challenges of different generations working together.
- What skills and work habits each generation brings to the table.
- If age matters in the workplace.
Interested? Keep on reading to find out what the research revealed. First, let’s briefly review different generations based on several earlier studies.
Silent Generation [born 1928–1945]
The Silent Generation, also called the Traditionalists, grew up far before the dawn of modern technology. They value hard work, a slower pace, and playing by rules.
People representing the Silent Generation usually make conservative, loyal, and highly disciplined workers. Still, due to an advanced age, only a handful of the Silent Generation is present in today’s workforce.
Baby boomers [born 1946–1964]
Baby boomers look primarily for job security. They appreciate a more formalized and structured environment than younger generations. Boomers also lack familiarity with new technologies due to no digital communication growing up. Therefore, they may prefer face-to-face meetings to online ones. It is not a rule, though.
Boomers appreciate the chance to share their expertise, given they are a great source of knowledge about their industry. They’re hardworking and want to be recognized for their skills. Managers should encourage them to mentor younger employees.
What is worth mentioning is that many baby boomers appreciate reduced schedules, shifts, and the option to work from home. Those benefits would encourage them to stay in their current job longer. Health care and retirement benefits are also highly desired.
Gen X [born 1965–1980]
Gen Xers prefer an environment that focuses on independence. They appreciate having the flexibility to manage their workload. Greater physical and psychological space also matters to them.
For generation X workers, their families are often a reference point. Therefore, they evaluate healthcare coverage, flexible workforce arrangements, on-site daycare and other perks facilitating a good work-life balance. When it comes to rewards, Gen Xers seem to prefer monetary ones.
Millennials [born 1981–1996]
Millennials straddle the line between the way things were and how they are now. This hyper-connected, tech-savvy generation challenged employers’ demands of relentless commutes, work-life balance standards, and profit-oriented mentality. They are modern-age communicators with entrepreneurial spirits.
Millennials appreciate remote work and flexible schedules. They want to be assessed not for their office hours but for their results. What’s more, Millennials need to feel that their work is important and has a deeper meaning.
Gen Z [born 1997–2012]
Generation Z workers place a great emphasis on purpose-driven work and a good work-life balance. They value growth and promotion opportunities. Gen Zers work for a higher cause as they see making the world a better place as their top long-term career goal.
Take a look at the research findings of Zety.com’s 2021 study:
- 95% of Gen Zers want to do a meaningful job that goes beyond making ends meet. In fact, 71% of Gen Z workers would even cut their pay to do meaningful work.
- When it comes to favorite job perks, Gen Zers pick flexible schedules (59%) and remote work (53%).
- The key reasons for which Gen Z workers quit are a clash of values between them and an employer (72%), poor work-life balance (50%), and a toxic work environment (47%).
- 43% of Gen Z employees believe that making the world a better place is their long-term career goal.
Countless studies claim both Millennials and Gen Zers are the most job-hopping generations ever. Yet, they are ready to work in one place for two years or more as long as employers provide them with work-life balance, a sense of job meaningfulness, and growth opportunities.
Time to go through our study now.
Are different generations in the workplace a source of conflict, or rather a way to maximize the potential of people of different ages? Let’s see.
Views on generation diversity in the workplace
Just a quick note: we didn’t silence the Silent Generation; nobody who could represent this age group took the survey.
We started by asking the respondents how they generally perceived generation diversity in the workplace. Let’s have a look at their answers:
- Almost 9 in 10 respondents (89%) considered generation diversity in the workplace as something positive. What’s more, 87% of survey takers viewed it as a chance for different generations to learn from each other.
- At the same time, 78% of surveyed employees believed a multigenerational workplace could lead to conflict.
- Gen Zers (91%) were more optimistic about the multigenerational workplace than baby boomers (81%). There was a similar trend among respondents without a college degree (81%) and MA degree holders (92%).
The survey takers were also asked: “If you were an employer, would you hire people representing different generations?”.
- The study revealed that as many as 88% of the surveyed declared they would hire people from different generations.
- There was a disparity between the positive answers given by respondents with no college degree (66%) and MA degree holders (90%), as well as Gen Xers (91%) and baby boomers (77%).
Is age an issue of great importance, or is it just a number? Dig deeper to uncloak the mystery.
Is age just a number?
Attaching labels. Calling names. Making assumptions based on nothing but age.
Let’s face it. Outdated stereotypes still affect the perception of age in the workplace.
Using our participants as an example, let’s examine whether age affects the work environment:
- 88% of respondents agreed that age plays an important role in employee competence. 9 in 10 Gen Xers supported this view, while 83% of baby boomers seemed less convinced.
- Over 8 in 10 (81%) survey takers agreed that supervisors and managers should be respected because of their job title, regardless of their competency and leadership skills. Interestingly, a comparison of different demographic groups revealed a disparity in answers given by respondents with no college degree (74%) and MA degree holders (87%) who considerably supported this opinion.
Asked about age preference regarding coworkers, respondents answered as follows:
- I prefer to work with people (around) my age. — 40%
- I prefer to work with people younger than me. — 36%
- I prefer to work with people older than me. — 10%
- The age of the coworkers doesn’t matter to me. — 14%
Surprisingly enough, 8 in 10 (81%) survey takers found it hard to have someone younger than them as their manager/supervisor.
What conclusions can we draw then? Well, our respondents seemed a bit inconsistent in their views. Yet, it looks like age is not only a personal detail but also affects people’s opinions on others’ ability to perform.
Multigenerational skill ranking
No false modesty. It’s time for honest self-evaluation. The survey included a section in which respondents ranked their skills.
Let’s see how members of each generation assessed themselves and what skills they rated highest:
- Gen Zers—general computer literacy (#1), public speaking, communication, leadership, coding and problem-solving skills.
- Millennials—communication (#1), problem-solving skills, general computer literacy and social media skills [dead heat], analytical thinking and leadership skills.
- Gen Xers—problem-solving (#1), communication, general computer literacy, logical thinking and leadership skills.
- Baby Boomers—logical thinking (#1), leadership, public speaking, problem-solving and communication skills.
There is a tendency for older generations to rate themselves lower in terms of their skills than younger generations. It may result from our culture promoting confidence, empowerment, and self-belief.
Values & expectations toward the workplace
We also wanted to examine what different generations value in professional life and what they expect from the workplace. Research findings revealed the following:
- Job prestige is valued the most by respondents representing all generations (Gen Zers—53%, Millennials—58%, Gen Xers—64%, baby boomers—59%).
- As the second most important aspect of work, Gen Zers (44%) and baby boomers (46%) considered job security, while for Gen Xers (42%) and Millennials (46%), it was the “chances for growth.”
- Asked, “Which of the benefits do you personally consider the best?” Gen Zers (39%) chose health insurance, while Millennials (38%), Gen Xers (33%), and baby boomers (32%) picked the flexible working benefit.
Dilemmas all generations share
No matter how different generations may be, there are some dilemmas we all share.
We asked respondents to choose what is more important to them. Here are the results:
- Doing meaningful work—80% vs. Earning a lot of money—20%
- Exciting tasks—60% vs. Stable employment—40%
- Job satisfaction—86% vs. Job prestige—14%
- Family—78% vs. Career—22%
Here are a few other interesting research findings:
- More than 1 in 3 (32%) Millennials valued career higher than family.
- Nearly a half (48%) of Gen Xers preferred stable employment to doing exciting tasks.
Another question regarded work-life balance. More than 9 in 10 (92%) survey takers declared that work-life balance was important to them.
The respondents were also asked: “How often do you work on vacation? This includes any work-related task, such as checking and answering emails.” They answered as follows:
There were no disparities between answers given by survey takers representing different generations.
Attitudes toward teamwork & remote work
To let us examine attitudes toward teamwork and remote work, the respondents answered a series of questions. The study findings to note:
- Almost 9 in 10 (87%) respondents feel good working in a team. What’s more, as many as 88% like sharing their knowledge with colleagues.
- 60% of the surveyed prefer teamwork, while 33% chose individual work, and 7% don’t mind both.
- Socializing with colleagues after work is a great idea for 89% of respondents.
- Almost 8 in 10 (79%) survey takers feel positive about remote work. Additionally, for 40% of respondents, it is a preferred form of work. At the same time, 50% like working on-site more, and for 10%, it makes no difference if they work remotely or on-site.
Asked about their preferred method of communicating with colleagues at work, the surveyed answered:
- Zoom (or other video conferencing tools)—4%
- Slack (or other messaging apps)—1%
Surprisingly, there are no noticeable disparities in answers to mention.
As the times change, so do the people. Still, it seems clear that our ability to adapt is impressive.
The floor is yours
Our helpful participants were asked: “Do you have any experience working in a multigenerational environment?” and “How do you feel about members of different generations working together?”.
Most people shared positive experiences gained from working in an intergenerational environment. Here’s what they told us in their own words:
But, there’s also the other side of it:
Okay. It seems that younger generations and good reputation are not a match.
Aren’t they indeed? Some would disagree:
And how about older generations? Let’s see:
Fair enough. Older workers are the salt of the Earth. Still, no generation is perfect.
One of the respondents, who works in the education industry, shared their worries about tasks they were often given:
Some respondents took a balanced approach to older and younger generations. Both have strengths and weaknesses. But no one is better than the other.
The key to success is an open approach to mutual learning, willingness to cooperate, and accepting different age groups the way they are.
There is also a group of survey takers who declared that work well done was all that mattered. Not the employees’ age.
Benefits of generational differences in the workplace
The beauty and actual value of generation diversity in the workplace lie in the fact that all age groups bring different skills to the table.
Everybody wins. And the prizes are precious. Let’s have a look.
- Knowledge-sharing. A diverse knowledge base is a workplace treasure chest. In an intergenerational team, employees of different ages can learn from each other. For example, Millennials and Gen Zers may help baby boomers adapt to new technologies. At the same time, older generations have special interpersonal skills, which younger people may lack. Age diversity goes hand in hand with skill diversity. And thanks to knowledge-sharing, people grow.
- Performance and productivity boost. It’s proven that age diversity has a positive influence on a group involved in complex decision-making tasks. Also, the productivity of both older and younger employees is higher in companies with mixed-age work teams. You don’t argue with science, right?
- Enhanced problem-solving. Different generations come with different perspectives. Also, a wide array of available life experiences makes a great source of creative solutions.
- A diversified workforce is an open-minded workforce. No matter whether it comes to age, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. The broader range of people you work with, the more sensitive you become to differences between them. It broadens not only your horizons but also your potential customer base’s.
- Friendly work environment, more understanding employees. Working side by side with people from different generations is an eye-opening experience. It proves that negative age stereotypes are wrong, and all they do is harm. The more you see, the wiser you become.
Diversity is a workplace blessing. Yet, to ensure that everyone can reach their potential, the crucial thing is to understand the characteristics and expectations of each generation.
Read on to get some practical tips on how to act in a multigenerational work environment:
Multigenerational workplace—best practices
Multigenerational workplace practices presented below are simple, yet effective. Let’s give them a closer look:
- Avoid making age-based assumptions and stereotyping. They do nothing but harm. And lead nowhere near the company’s success.
- Be respectful, flexible, and understanding.
- Adopt varying communication styles.
- Recognize one another’s strengths.
- Inspire each other to grow. Everyone has something to teach and something to learn.
If you are an employer, here are some more tips and tricks for you:
- Tailor your recruiting strategies to a multigenerational workforce.
- Promote inclusive work culture and encourage respect.
- Stay attentive to your employees’ needs.
- Customize your approach to every employee.
- Conduct generational training.
- Enhance technology.
- Flatten hierarchy.
- Organize team-building activities and events.
Inclusion and diversity in the workplace go beyond moral imperatives. These days, it is one of the trademarks of forward-thinking businesses. We can learn from each other and make all the differences a great source of information about people and the wide world.
A few words before you go.
Let’s summarize what the research revealed. Here’s a recap of our findings:
- Almost 9 in 10 respondents (89%) considered generation diversity in the workplace something positive.
- The benefits of generational differences in the workplace include knowledge-sharing, performance and productivity boost, enhanced problem-solving, a friendly work environment, and more empathetic employees.
- According to more than 8 in 10 (81%) survey takers, supervisors and managers should be respected because of their job title, regardless of their competency and whether they manage people well.
- 4 in 10 respondents claimed they preferred to work with people (around) their age. At the same time, 81% of participants found it hard to have someone younger than them as a manager or supervisor.
- Assessing their greatest strengths, the generations chose as follows: baby boomers—logical thinking, Gen Xers—problem-solving skills, Millennials—communication skills, and Gen Zers—general computer literacy.
- Older generations tend to rate their skills lower than the younger generations do. It may result from our culture promoting confidence, empowerment, and self-belief.
- Job prestige was valued the most by respondents representing all generations.
- More than 1 in 3 (32%) Millennials valued career higher than family.
- Nearly a half (48%) of Gen Xers preferred stable employment to doing exciting tasks.
- For almost 9 in 10 (86%) respondents, job satisfaction was more important than job prestige. At the same time, only 20% of survey takers valued earning a lot of money more than doing meaningful work.
Last but not least—
At work, age is just a number.
Not a credential. Not a competency. Not a reason for making anyone feel excluded.
The above-presented findings were obtained by surveying 1063 American respondents online via a bespoke polling tool. They were asked questions about their attitudes toward workplace generation diversity. These included yes/no questions, scale-based questions relating to levels of agreement with a statement, questions that permitted the selection of multiple options from a list of potential answers, and a question that allowed open responses. All respondents included in the study passed an attention-check question.
The data presented relies on self-reports from a randomized group of respondents. Each person who took our survey read and responded to each question without any research administration or interference. There are many potential issues with self-reported data like selective memory, exaggeration, attribution, or telescoping. Some questions and responses have been rephrased or condensed for clarity and ease of understanding for readers.
Fair use statement
Want to share the findings of our research? Go ahead. Feel free to use our images and information wherever you wish. Just link back to this page, please—it will let other readers get deeper into the topic. Additionally, remember to use this content exclusively for non-commercial purposes.
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- Robert Half Management Resources, “How Do Generations Of Workers Differ?”
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