Ditch the generational labels

Generational labels such as Millennials, Gen X, Gen Y and Baby Boomers need to be confined to history; the groups have a lot more in common than previously thought. That was the message from Trevor Miles from IBM Global Business Services speaking at a breakfast at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors on 3 February.

IBM has conducted research into the views and aspirations of different generations in the workplace which debunks the myths of the Millennials as substantially different from other groups.

IMG_1371“Millennials want the same things that their older colleagues do,” Miles told the audience. “Their career goals and expectations are similar to older generations. They are not addicted to digital and are happy operating face-to-face and they are happy to make decisions alone, without the team. They are also just as likely to jump ship to take a job which fulfills their passions as other people.”

But the research also revealed some uncomfortable truths about all employees. Many are in the dark when it comes to their organisations’ business strategy; all generations think their customers’ experience of their organisations is poor; and employees of all ages are embracing the digital revolution but feel their organisations’ grasp of new technology is poor.

This was a refreshing piece of research (although it only interviewed 1,874 people so I would argue it needs more respondents to ensure it is accurate). We hear so much tosh about how the different generations want such different things. Not all Millennials are lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow. Not all Gen Xers are open-minded, supportive and team-players. Not all Baby Boomers are tech avoiders. There are huge generalisations out there being taken for granted. The need for a workplace which is suitable for the three (four or five – depending on how you describe them) generations now working side by side has created a boom in the office fit-out and furniture industry anxious to create new and exciting environments and products for these different markets.

Miles concluded with an invitation to do things differently at work. He called on the audience to:

Rethink locations and not always go for the traditional option. Where is the talent going to be?

Ensure seamless connectivity through WiFi, mobile signal and power

Experiment and listen to feedback: no one size fits all. Try out different things and see what works and what people like

Make work more like home through good coffee and food, BYOD, laundry and car servicing. Blend work and home.

Cathy Hayward