Crafting the Multi-Generational Workforce
Bill Gates. The founder of the enormously successful Microsoft Corporation is renowned worldwide. Gates, also an author and humanitarian, created the multinational tech giant with high school friend, Paul Allen, in 1975. It currently has a market capitalization of over $800 billion and just last week Microsoft overtook Amazon as second most valuable U.S. company.
So, what’s their secret?
Their workforce. Although no longer at the helm of Microsoft, Gates infused the company with an ethos that remains today. Interviewed and, in particular, questioned about the secret to his tremendous success, Gates was quoted as saying, “The key for us, number one, has always been hiring very smart people. If we weren’t still hiring great people and pushing ahead at full speed, it would be easy to fall behind and become some mediocre company.”
Gates has good company in recognizing the importance of engaging the right people. The late Steve Jobs was known for quipping, “A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”
In the United States, unemployment is at a 50 year all time low and the Eurozone is seeing its lowest unemployment rate since the 2008 financial crisis. During times of full employment, crafting the optimal workforce may be a challenge; however, with the gig economy continuing to grow, employers may have a host of options. Increasingly, employers are utilizing contingent workers to fulfill open positions – and these contingent workers are represented by a number of generations and profiles, each with plenty to offer.
While not intended on providing a primer on hiring techniques, in the spirit of optimism the objective of this piece is to outline the potential advantages of engaging professionals from a sampling of generations.
Baby Boomers born ~ 1946 to 1964 are, according to Smart Company, loyal, flexible and experienced. Particularly practiced, this group has been subjected to countless challenges and maintains a broad network of valuable, industry connections. Younger employees benefit when mentored by colleagues with extensive experience. Additionally, the “luxury” of not growing up in the digital age, exposed to email and texting, has allowed boomers to finely hone their interpersonal skills via traditional communication methods such as face to face meetings and telephones.
Generation X, a smaller cohort born ~ 1965 to 1980, is widely considered the “overlooked” generation. But, as reported by Fast Company, Gen Xers demonstrate unique leadership qualities. They are tech savvy and “committed to development.” This was the first generation born primarily into dual income households. With no access cell phones (they didn’t exist) to constantly communicate with parents, Gen Xers “had freedom to make decisions and were left on their own to organize their time, do their chores, and get their homework done before their parents got home.” Hence their entrepreneurial spirit. Their innate, independent nature makes them perfect candidates for freelance work.
Millennials, currently representing the largest portion of the workforce, were born ~ 1981 to 1997. Considered “digital natives” – that is, brought up during the pervasive adoption of digital technology, Millennials are naturally proficient in technology, social media and the Internet of Things. Business Insider reports Millennials as the cohort most likely to blur the lines between life and work and the most willing to work during their personal time. Business Insider also suggested their hope for the future is manifested through their steadfast support for an employer they can believe in.
Generation Z, obviously the youngest of the population, were born after 1997 and are the newest members of today’s labor force. While not an abundance of information has been shared on this younger generation barely out of college, Forbes has decidedly weighed in indicating, “They deeply care about purpose, impact, and getting stuff done.” Gen Z is keenly interested in social good initiatives and believes in a more inclusive environment in which each employee is empowered.
Certainly each generation has their respective merits. The optimal multi-generational blend, with contrasting skills and talents, enables a greater knowledge base with powerful dynamics. And, as Forbes additionally points out, “The wide range of ideas and knowledge from a broad group of people can actually serve the company well, and help employees excel in their work.”
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