Part One: Designing a Multigenerational Work Experience

Part One: Designing a Multigenerational Work Experience

Our work is showing us that companies are changing and so is the workplace.  This warrants a deeper dialogue and more than a single blog post.  Today’s blog is part one of a three-part series that will outline what’s happening and how leaders need to go beyond the rethinking of the workplace and start designing what the work experience means for each generation they serve.

We have a generation gap that is being most prominently showcased in the work from home/work from office conversation, but the challenge goes far deeper than WFH/WFO.  It is how we work and the different expectations and personal desires we are seeing with each generation.I am Gen X. My Dad, who was a marketing executive and entrepreneur, was a Boomer and I have led and hired teams of Millennials for the past 10+ years of my career.  We now have Gen Z in the workforce and each generation has different POVs on the value they assign to work and the role it plays in their lives.  To summarize, here’s how we see the major generational differences based on the conversations we have with clients, candidates and through third party research:

  • Boomers:  They may have had it best by not having technology that made them feel they always had to be on.  They understood what it meant to leave the office at six and although there was frequent work to do at home, it was not carried around in their pocket which gave them the ability to truly unplug, disconnect and recharge.  They know what balance means and as the last of the generation is retiring, they are shaking their heads wondering if technology really made it all easier.
  • Gen X:  This is the smallest of all generations and they grew up wedged between two generations that are vastly different from each other due to the internet and how technology shaped their work and lives.  They are at the prime age and height of their careers while also working to juggle family and aging parents.  This is the generation that sits in the c-suite and makes up today's leadership.  They are the “always-on” generation and many expect their team members to follow suit if they want to rise to the executive ranks as they did.  The challenge though is the following generations don't want to work in the way Gen X does and expects their leaders to understand them better and to lead differently.  They are showing this by leaving their jobs in droves and changing companies frequently.  There are discussions that Gen X is out of touch with the modern workforce and may quickly lose their c-suite positions to the next generation if they don't adjust to the demands of Gen Y and Z.
  • Gen Y:  This is the first generation to grow up with social media and they are exhausted from the “always on” frenzy.  They are now raising their children and are seeking a family life that has more balance than the generation prior.  They are questioning if they even want to get to the c-suite because it doesn’t look that great from where they sit.  Those that do seek the c-suite are ambitious and rising quickly but they know how to say no to demands that don't fit within their boundaries and won't take an elevated position at any cost.
  • Gen Z:  They like to turn it on at nine and turn it off at five.  This is a generation that was raised in the sharing economy and feels they will never be able to afford a house or own assets like generations prior.  They have ambition, but not at all costs, and work is only part of their lives, it does not define them.  This generation was early in their careers when Covid hit and many took the opportunity to move away from the office, finding less expensive places to live that also align with the lifestyle they seek.  They are not jumping quickly back to the cities that corporations call home and they don't want to compromise their nights and weekends to build their careers. They don't believe they have to make tradeoffs and have never felt the financial pressures that would force somebody to do so.

Before you start throwing stones at my generalizations, know that I know I’m generalizing but I do this to not shy away from what is happening in the workplace and how this is impacting productivity, collaboration, team dynamics, trust and more.  Today’s leaders are challenged with meeting the demands of a multigenerational workforce and how to create a work experience that will deliver for all parties.

In part two of this series, we explore the deeper impact on people and companies and part three will explore solutions for today’s leaders.  If you feel there are others who would benefit from this exploration and conversation, please share this post and follow us on Linkedin.  We believe this is an important topic that would benefit from our community of leaders getting involved in the discussion.