But Who are Generations X and Y?
Jane Sunley, CEO of Purple Cubed (a consultancy firm specialised in workplace engagement) explains, “The baby boomers are the generational cohort born between 1945 and around 1961, generation X were born between around 1962 and 1981 and generation Y from around 1981 to 2001… Don’t get too hung up on the dates though, because everybody says that they’re different. The important thing is to appreciate that every generation has been influenced by the environment of their upbringing: education, parents and – in the case of generation Y – the biggest influence has been technology.”
What are the Key Differences Between the Generations?
According to Sunley, there are five key differences between the upbringing, character and motivations of each generation that affect their working styles:
- Reason they work – Baby boomers ‘live to work’, generation X ‘work to live’ and generation Y work to fund their lifestyle.
- Decision-making – Baby boomers prefer to make their own decisions, generation X will take direction but then like to be left to get on with it and generation Y require constant direction and collaboration.
- Feedback and response to work – Baby boomers know when they have done a good job, generation X like regular feedback and generation Y need constant feedback.
- Sharing opinions – Baby boomers like to keep their opinions to themselves, generation X share their opinions and generation Y assume others want their opinions.
- Attitude to change – Baby boomers are resistant to change, generation X relish change and generation Y are flexible.
Could This Cause Problems?
According to the Cass Business School study, “Only 41% of respondents believed that their organisations are ready for changing workplace demographics of age, gender and diversity.” Many respondents to the study also commented that “the retirement of baby boomers from leadership positions would result in a mass exodus of talent over the next 20 years, which will intensify the global war for talent among existing executives”.
Obviously organisations will have to adapt their leadership strategies, corporate culture and so on to adjust to the new generations of leaders and workforce as well as the 21st century as a whole. Sunley argues that understanding the differences between the generations could give organisations the edge when managing the shift in their workforce. Appreciating the five key differences could help directors form a more effective leadership strategy.
How Should Leadership Styles be Adapted?
The Cass study suggested that, “Foremost among the new leadership skills will be emotional intelligence, people skills and flexibility, which will be needed to attract and motivate a more diverse and mobile workforce… This more collaborative form of leadership will be key to helping executives navigate the 21st Century workforce.”
Professor Cliff Oswick, Cass Deputy Dean, believes, "The increasing diversity of the global workforce will need to be taken into account by corporate leaders. Cultural awareness will be at a premium and leaders will have to cultivate emotional intelligence and be better attuned to gender differences."
What About Gamification?
I have been reading about this topic over the past week or so and it struck me that gamification looks like another way that organisations are coping with some of these new generational styles as well as the 21st century world of work as a whole. The likes of Google are creating new ‘gamified’ offices that cater to the often young, innovative, creative types that they wish to attract and motivate. They often include things such as gyms, gourmet cafeterias, dogs, hair stylists, scooters, massage parlours, slides, shops and so on to support the lifestyle and motivational needs of generation Y (amongst other things).
The fact that generation Y like to work together and collaborate is often encouraged by gamified solutions as well as new office spaces. Rewards for collaboration can be encouraged by team leader boards, badges etc. as well as collaborative games being used to train, assess, build teams and so on. ‘Gamified’, 21st century offices also support generation Y’s need for collaboration. For example, offices are often made with areas specifically for people to bump into each other or act as the proverbial water cooler and encourage people to spark off one another and innovate. Many offices now create open plan areas with smaller pods or seating areas within them to make collaboration natural, easy and fun. For example, white board walls, pianos, ping pong tables and so on are often included in new offices to promote team bonding and collaboration.
What can be gamified:
- Recruitment – see article.
- Learning and development - pixelfountain does this, see: www.sim-uni.co.uk. See article.
- Strategy and implementation – pixelfountain also does this. See article.
- Communications (internal and external) and Marketing - see articles here and here.
- Rewards, incentives and recognition – e.g. Badgeville.
- The cultivation of a specific corporate culture – see article.
Motivation is extremely important at work, both for the employees and the organisations. The infographic below sums up very well how generations X and Y might be motivated differently to the baby boomers and how gamification can be utilised to engage and motivate the workers of today and tomorrow.
|Infographic courtesy of Badgeville, click for larger image.|