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From Boomers to Zoomers, what does each generation want and expect from their workplace and employers?

From Boomers to Zoomers, what does each generation want and expect from their workplace and employers?

From Boomers to Zoomers we are now at a point where we can potentially be actively working alongside five generations. This melting pot of different attitudes and working practices creates diversity that can be the building blocks of a highly productive workforce. We can learn a lot from each other so it is important to identify and cater to each generation’s expectations so employers can attract and retain talent.

In this blog, we will identify each generation and take a look at their expectations from their working environment and their employers. We will make suggestions on how to manage generational expectations today, including native digital Gen Z, who place importance on mental well-being, flexibility, and remote working options.

We will also predict what the future generation (Generation Alpha) may want from their workplace, including artificial intelligence (AI), intelligent automation, and machine learning.

By the end of this post, we hope you will have gained a better understanding of each generation to help you build a better working environment where people of all ages can thrive.

5 generations in the workplace:

Before we go any further, we need to identify and remind ourselves of each generation. We will highlight the differences between each generation including their cultural world event experiences and working practices.

It is important at this stage, to highlight that it is harmful and derogatory to stereotype each type of generation, from the 18-year-old work experience to the 72-year-old seasoned professional, each generation has its attitudes, mindsets, and individual experiences. We need to be sensitive to this, in other words, we need to ‘mind the gap’.

The Silent Generation: Born 1928 – 1945. Age 78 - 95

Silent generation representation. Social group concept, generation type.

The Silent Generation also known as 'Radio Babies' lived through World War II and the Great Depression. These challenging experiences shaped many of the generation’s attitudes toward the workplace. Their ‘silent’ behaviour has been attributed to the difficult times they were born into and their desire to work within the system, rather than to change it. Individuals from this generation are loyal and conventional, demonstrating a devotion to what they do. Most of this generation will now be retired, or soon to be retired (as of 2023) and only make up 2 percent of the UK workforce.

The Baby Boomers: Born 1946 – 1964. Age 59 – 77

Baby Boomers represent the 76 million people born during the post-World War II baby boom. They rejected and redefined traditional values. They are also the wealthiest, most active, and have the most disposable income. This generation has focus, discipline, and a strong work ethic. The Baby Boomers make up a high proportion of the UK workforce at 31 percent.

Baby Boomers. What do they expect from the workplace

Generation X: Born 1965 – 1980. Age 43 – 58

Man sitting at table smiling at camera

Generation X, often referred to as 'the middle child', is the generation sandwiched between boomers and millennials; they make up a third of the workforce.
World events that shaped Gen X include the AIDS epidemic, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the invention of the internet, and the subsequent dot-com boom.

They are an entrepreneurial generation who are self-sufficient and work-life balance focused. Generation X makes up around 33 percent of the UK workforce.

Generation Y (Millennials): Born 1981 – 1996. Age 27 – 42

Generation Y are millennials because they became adults around the time of the millennium. World events include September 11th in 2001, The Great Recession during 2007 – 08, and the rise of social media.

Millennials are often described as self-centred and obsessed with social media, winning the unflattering nickname 'Generation Me'. However, evidence suggests they exhibit openness to change and are concerned about environmental issues. As of 2023, millennials are the biggest group in the UK workforce, at 35 percent.

Gen Z in the workplace

Generation Z: Born 1997 – 2012. Age: 11 – 26

Woman influencer recording video blog on smartphone sitting at an home office desk. Girl sits front mobile phone camera on tripod records educational tutorial video recounts personal lifestyle blog broadcasting.

Generation Z (Gen Z) is the first digital generation to grow up with no recollection of a world without the Internet. The entertainment and technology that embraced previous generations such as analogue cameras, video cassettes, CDs, and record players are obsolete or looked upon by Gen Z as ‘cool or retro’.

Gen Z have grown up in a turbulent financial period with the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2008, the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s War on Ukraine, and a cost-of-living crisis. These impacting events haven’t necessarily forced them into steady 9-5’s or motivated them to climb the career ladder for financial gain.

It seems Gen Z values salary less than any other generation, preferring a work-life balance, remote working, and flexible leave over financial goals and targets. Gen Z makes up around 20 percent of the UK workforce.

Now that we have identified each Generation, their life experiences, and working styles, we will look at what their expectations are from the workplace and their employers.

What does The Silent Generation expect from the workplace?

The Silent Generation values a formal and structured workplace with clear rules and expectations. They value teamwork and prefer face-to-face communication but, they may find it difficult to reach out for help.

To meet the expectations of The Silent Generation in the workplace employers should provide a structured and formal workplace with clear expectations and rules. They should also encourage teamwork and provide opportunities for Silent Generation employees to make a positive impact on the organisation.

Traditionalists from this generation would feel supported by using old-school tools like whiteboards for face-to-face collaboration and presentations. At an executive level, they would certainly be more at home with larger desks with visitor chairs for associates, personnel, or interviewees.

Employers should also provide opportunities for face-to-face communication and support Silent Generation employees who may struggle to ask for help. Finally, employers should provide job security and stability to meet the needs of this generation.

What do The Baby Boomers expect from the workplace?

Baby Boomers have an incomparable work ethic and started their careers believing in a clear managerial hierarchy. They value job security and stability and prefer face-to-face communication over digital communication. Additionally, Baby Boomers have unique well-being needs.

Therefore, to create a positive work environment for Baby Boomers in the UK, employers should provide job security, offer clear communication channels, and consider the unique wellbeing needs of this age group.

This generation will have started their careers in office cubicles so they may be expecting a level of privacy whilst working. They will also be more accustomed to talking (rather than texting or Facetime) on the phone with family, clients, and peers. Acoustic phone booths such as The Penelope Phone Booth would be appreciated.

What does Generation X expect from the workplace?

Generation X values work-life balance, independence, and entrepreneurship. They are self-sufficient, resourceful, and individualistic, and value freedom and responsibility. They are committed to their jobs and work hard but may be less devoted to their employers than previous generations due to experiencing economic hardship during the 1980s and 1990s.

To create a positive work environment for Generation X, employers should provide opportunities for work-life balance, such as flexible schedules and remote work options. Employers should also provide opportunities for independence and entrepreneurship, such as the ability to work on projects autonomously. Employers should recognize the hard work and commitment of Generation X employees and provide opportunities for growth and development.

Generation X is a distinctly independent group and enjoys working solo in the workplace so individual work pods like the Aegis Solo Acoustic Work Booth Pod would provide a quiet oasis for shutting out the noise and allowing them to get their focus up and heads down.

Aegis Solo Acoustic Work Booth Pod

What do Generation Y (Millennials) expect from the workplace?

Colab video conference booth

Generation Y values work-life balance, flexibility, and a sense of purpose in their careers. They seek a workplace that offers opportunities for growth and development, as well as a collaborative and inclusive work environment. They also place a high value on technology and expect to have access to the latest tools and resources to perform their jobs effectively.

To create a positive work environment for Generation Y, employers should provide opportunities for work-life balance, such as flexible schedules and remote work options. Employers should also offer opportunities for growth and development, such as training and mentoring programs, and provide a clear path for career advancement. 

Employers should foster a collaborative and inclusive work environment that values diversity and encourages teamwork. The Colab video conference booth would suit their meeting requirements. 

Finally, employers should provide access to the latest technology and resources to enable Generation Y employees to perform their jobs effectively.

What does Generation Z expect from the workplace?

Generation Z, expects a workplace that provides opportunities for growth and development, a sense of purpose, and work-life balance. They value flexibility, with the ability to work remotely or have flexible schedules. They also prioritize a diverse, inclusive workplace culture that values equity and social responsibility.

To create a positive work environment for Generation Z, employers should provide opportunities for growth and development, such as training and mentorship programs. Employers should also communicate a clear sense of purpose and values, and provide opportunities for employees to contribute to social causes. 

The Harbour Yoga Booth

Unfortunately, Gen Z is also emerging as the most stressed demographic in the workforce. Some entered the workforce during the pandemic and are now experiencing a cost-of-living crisis. It is for this reason that this generation is putting mental health high on their workplace agenda. They are likely to seek some sort of non-work ‘chill out space’ such as a Reading Room or The Harbour Yoga Booth allowing them to switch off and recharge. 

Employers should offer flexibility in work arrangements, including remote work options and flexible schedules. Finally, employers should prioritize diversity and inclusion in the workplace, creating a culture that values equity and social responsibility.

A look to the future. What will Generation Alpha (Born 2010 – 2025) expect from the workplace?

Gen A

Gen Alpha’s are all children born in 2010, the same year Apple released the iPad. In around six years (2029) Gen Alpha will start to reach working age and enter the workforce. Businesses will need to be ready and prepared. This generation will be a different kettle of fish, having been born into a fully digital world of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, machine learning, voice assistance (Alexa or Siri), and natural language processing tools like Chat GPT. 

Gen Alpha will not be willing to work for employees who use antiquated systems. They will expect software to load and run reports instantaneously. Their patience threshold may be low because, in a Gen Alpha world, mundane tasks will be performed by AI and Machine Learning. Businesses will need to fully encompass the new and exciting AI platform that this generation will have become accustomed to. 

Gen Alpha are now the most diverse generation in history, so it will be natural for them to expect representation and inclusivity from the workplace and their employers. These individuals are also growing up in a world where environmental concerns are a top priority. They will presumably bring this perspective to the workplace, advocating for sustainable practices and solutions.

Conclusion

In conclusion, understanding the different generational values and expectations in the workplace is crucial for creating a positive and productive work environment. Each generation brings unique strengths and perspectives that can be leveraged to drive innovation and success. 

Baby boomers value loyalty and hard work, Generation X values work-life balance and independence, Millennials value purpose and collaboration, and Generation Z values growth and development, diversity, and social responsibility. 

As we look to the future, it will be important to consider the expectations of the upcoming Alpha generation, who are predicted to value technology, diversity, and work-life balance. By embracing these differences and creating a culture of inclusivity and respect, organizations can attract and retain top talent from all generations and drive long-term success.

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