October article – Is there really a generational divide?

October 22, 2019

Discussion about the differences between the generations is a hot topic these days – and sometimes even the subject of heated debate. From diverse expectations in terms of quality of life, to varying opportunities in terms of education costs, home ownership and plans for retirement, some people say the generational divide has never been more stark. The three key generations we currently find in the workplace are: • Millennials – generally defined as those born between the early 1980s and 2000 • Generation X – classed as those born between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s • Baby Boomers – considered to have been born between 1946 and 1964. Spanning over half a century in total, these three generations have understandably had very different life experiences. From the influx of women into the world of work to the advent of the internet, in some industries, the workplace has changed almost beyond recognition during this time. So how do these three generations differ in their approach to their work lives? And what happens when they come together in the workplace, and are expected to work as a team? Clichés and stereotypes We’ve all heard the clichés – millennials are accused of being the ‘snowflake’ generation who struggle with feedback and expect ‘breakout rooms’ (equipped with ping pong tables and sleep pods) in which to eat their avocado toast and drink their complicated coffees before starting work. Gen X-ers, often seen as an ideal compromise between youth and experience, are nevertheless criticised for requesting increasing autonomy and freedom at the same time as expecting constantly rising earnings and stratospheric career development. Boomers, meanwhile, are often maligned for (supposedly) being less au fait with technology, and continuing to expect gold-plated benefits at a time when many younger workers feel exploited by the insecurity and low wages of the ‘gig economy’. If you consider the prospect of throwing these groups together with a challenging project and a looming deadline, it’s clear to see why some people think the differences between the generations are too vast to overcome. A different view But at Time, we’re not swayed by these stereotypical views. We are fortunate enough to have worked for many years with a wide variety of candidates from all three generations, from eager school leavers and bright-eyed graduates to experienced, longstanding professionals. Thanks to this, we have gained valuable insights into the benefits of bringing together staff from many different backgrounds, and we have seen over the years how some of the most important skills and qualities can be common to all generations. For instance: • Conscientiousness and commitment to the role, the company and the industry, regardless of the dynamics of an individual team. • Willingness to adapt to others, changing communication styles accordingly and being able to approach problems from a number of different angles. • Awareness and acceptance of one’s own strengths and weaknesses, the ability to recognise the opportunity to help others, and the benefits of allowing them to help you. • Understanding of the importance of continuous learning, no matter what stage of career you are at. This last point is key for us. Whether you need to keep your computing skills up to date, or you need to start getting to grips with negotiation techniques, overseeing complicated projects or managing staff, there’s always something to learn in the workplace. This appetite for continuing professional development is common to all good employees, regardless of age or background. Of course, discriminating on the basis of age is illegal – but what’s more, at Time we believe it’s also short-sighted. If your staff have these qualities, it really doesn’t matter whether they had posters of David Bowie, Nirvana or Adele on their bedroom walls when they were growing up – what matters is that they will be well-equipped to fit into any team and to bring their very best to the task in hand. If you’d like our help with assembling or adding to your team, and making sure you have the right mix of skills, enthusiasm, life experience and different perspectives, please get in touch with us at carolinetaggart@timerecruitment.co.uk.


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