The illustration on the right very likely represents the makeup of your organization’s workforce, where the majority of employees are between the ages of 18 and 54. The fastest-growing group is likely between the ages of 18 and 34, referred to as Millennials.
The multi-generational workforce is nothing new. What is new is the effect of younger generations on employers. Younger workers can appear to be not interested in assimilating into a corporate melting pot that forges employment identity in terms of a “job,” accountability, authority, hierarchies, and preferred protocols. They do not think the same way about these typical categories, nor do they speak in what we consider to be “traditional” business language.
Much ado has been made about managing generational conflict. Smart organizations recognize that Millennials and Gen-Xers are not conflicted but are creatively reshaping workplace cultures to the benefit of everyone. Forward-thinking organizations focus on this creativity.
Millennials and Gen-Xers are driving significant change that people across all generations want: career development (not just “a job”), interesting advancement opportunities (not the same as a ”promotion”), diverse and personalized reward systems (not necessarily more money), and a flexible work culture (not a dedicated location with policies, regulations, and specified “business hours”). Millennials and Gen-Xers demand more balance in their lives (“me” time is a priority), and user-friendly technology is making traditional work faster, more convenient, and performance-boosting (truly working smarter, not harder).
What is the significance of these changes? This shifting workplace culture is now part of the normative expectations of employees across all generations. To be on point, successful organizations recognize this and opt not to operate with outdated people strategies. Collaboration, cooperation, flexibility, and innovation are the new work culture foundations, especially in industries as dynamic as health care.
But, we’re not finished with this workplace culture transformation. On the horizon is Generation Z. Gen Z, consisting predominantly of today’s teenagers and pre-teens, is the next cohort of employees. The Z’s have already started making their workplace debut, and they are characterized as an uber-digital generation that’s completely unaware that the world once turned without the internet and the array of technologies they now take for granted.
Organizations can learn much from today’s shifting multi-generational work culture. They need to rethink talent practices to attract and retain Millennial and Gen Z employees. The time to start thinking about this generation is now.
Joe Abel, CPCC, ACC, PhD, is HFMA’s director of career strategies. He certified as a professional career coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the Coaches Training Institute (CTI).