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High levels of collaboration between the different generations will have a beneficial effect in your organisation.

There still seems to be a bit of a buzz around what to do about Millennials in some circles. It seems it is out of a place of uncertainty what the future holds for organisations when Millennials become the predominant portion of the workforce. In our organisation, we are already seeing 88% of the workforce being defined as Millennials, which is far more than your typical organisation. The question would be: How can we address this generational uncertainty?

Millennials are characteristically hungry for career advancement. This could perhaps be because many Millennials entered the workforce in the middle of an economic recession. Job prospects were scarce, and they had to stand out and were forced to aggressively develop their skills. This led many Millennials to recognise the value of learning and development.

If we define the different generations, the following date ranges* can be used:

Before 1945 Traditionalists or Silent Generation
1946 – 1964 Baby Boomers
1965 – 1979 Generation X
1980 – 1995 Millennials (Generation Y)
1996 – 2016 Generation Z, iGen or Centennial

*Generation periods can differ across different academic papers, articles and studies.

What are the main characteristics of each of these generations?

Traditionalists or Silent Generation

• They are hard working with a strong work ethic;
• They have a healthy respect for authority;
• They battle to adapt to new technology; and
• They are usually very loyal employees.

Baby Boomers

• They are independent and confident;
• They are career focused and dedicated;
• They had more opportunity for self-actualisation;
• They are motivated by prestige and position; and
• They are very competitive in the workplace.

Generation X

• They prefer more flexible work hours and value more freedom;
• They tend to be less loyal to one employer;
• They prefer a more balanced work life than previous generations; and
• They are more adaptable to changing technologies.

Millennials (Generation Y)

• They are very connected via technology;
• They prefer a more open and transparent work relationship;
• They want to know where their career is going with an employer;
• They enjoy collaboration and teamwork;
• They are less willing to sacrifice personal time for their career;
• They are the instant generation – demanding constant feedback;
• They are good at handling multiple responsibilities; and
• They want to feel they contribute and are doing the right thing.

Generation Z, iGen or Centennial

• They want to be in total control;
• They will challenge the status quo;
• They want a personal experience from their interaction;
• They are very technologically astute ;
• They will have no brand loyalty and won’t hesitate to “unfollow”;
• They will put on more pressure for changes in the workplace; and
• They will be the true experts of the Gig economy.

What is a Micro-Generation?

Australian Dan Woodman, associate professor of Sociology at the University of Melbourne, has been attributed with identifying a new micro-generation, called Xennials, a mix of Generation X and Millennials who were born between 1977 and 1983. Xennials was however first introduced as a concept by Sarah Stankorb in an article she wrote for the GOOD magazine in 2014. Xennials are not the only microgeneration that exists. Micro-generations will occur at every change of generation. We have named these additional micro-generations as follows:

1943 – 1948 Troomers (Traditionalists and Baby Boomers);
1962 – 1967 Baby X’s (Baby Boomers and Generation X);
1977 – 1983 Xennials (Generation X and Millennials); and
1993 – 1998 MinionZ (Millennials and Generation Z).

So, what is Generational Glue?

In an organisation with an unbalanced generational mix, it could have an impact on certain key employee metrics i.e. turnover, engagement and employee satisfaction. The question is: Does your organisation have enough Generational Glue to connect the major generational groupings in your organisation? Microgenerations will be this very important Generational Glue as they will be the link between each of the main generation groupings.

The main purpose of Generational Glue would be to link the different generation groupings behind a common purpose, culture and jargon language. This will also assist in facilitating cross-collaboration, improving teamwork and impact positively on team dynamics.

Why is Generational Glue then so important for your organisation?

• Having a balanced generation mix could ensure higher employee engagement levels in your organisation as you have the important Generation Glue (micro-generations) that interlink them;
• Higher engagement levels in your organisation could, in turn, lead to higher productivity levels;
• Higher productivity levels will have a positive impact on the organisation’s bottom line;
• Micro-generations will also impact an organisation’s culture positively as it will lead to more team cohesiveness and a sense of belonging for employees;
• Too much of one generation grouping without the right amount of Generation Glue could make it difficult to create a unified workplace;
• Micro-generations will ensure better communication between generations will result in a better understanding of each other; and
• The absence of micro-generations could also lead to increased employee turnover and dissatisfaction in the workplace.

Generations in the workplace will always be something fluid as one generation ends and a new generation starts their careers. Having the right balance can have a long-term positive effect on employees and the organisation. So, it is worth looking more closely at the generational demographics of your organisation and make Generational Glue work for you.

Deon Smit is the Reward and Systems Manager at Capfin. He is a registered Global Remuneration Professional (World at Work) and Chartered Reward Specialist (SARA). Annamarie van Wyk is an HR Analyst at Capfin.

This article appeared in the December 2017 issue of HR Future magazine.

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