Designing for the Future: The Generation Game

  • Posted: January 25, 2019

Our accelerated culture has led to a wide range of generational groups working within the same space – each with different requirements, behaviours and expectations. In our highly competitive economy, employee retention, attraction; health and wellbeing are becoming significant issues for both large conglomerates and small businesses. So how to satisfy these groups diverse needs in the contemporary workplace? The first step is to understanding who they are.

(We’d like to add here that it’s could be quite easy to take these descriptions as exacting and definitive, pigeonholing these groups based on nothing more than a period of time. However, if we use these terms as ‘signposts’ and loose observations, there’s a lot to learn!)

 

 

Generational Groups in the Workplace (FT, 2018)

Baby Boomers (1945 – 1960)

 

Percentage in workplace: 19%
Career attitude: Organisational and defined by employers
Signature product: Television
Communication tools: Telephone, face-to-face

Boomers are typically disciplined and committed at work and can be addicted to the office. Their goal-orientated and work-centric principles are a consequence of the era in which they were brought up. The post-war era rise in population meant the Boomers were forced to be resourceful and highly competitive in order to shine above the rest in the professional world. Many believe in “face-time” at the office and may fault younger generations for working remotely.

 

Providing meeting settings that cater to face-to-face and telephone conversations (GDST, 2018)

Generation X (1961 – 1980) 

Percentage in workplace: 31%
Career attitude: Work/life balance
Signature product: Personal computer, mobile phone
Communication tools: Email, text message

This group may have spent a good deal of time alone as children with their Boomer parents out at work. Subsequently, they seek a work-life balance with a focus on self-reliance, adaptability and minimal supervision. Living in the information age of PCs and the Internet occurred in their adolescence which led to their quick take-up in the workplace with emails and texting being quicker and more productive than lengthy face-to-face conversations.

 

Generation X'ers desire hybrid work settings that still provides space to adapt their work to them

Millennials (1981 – 1995)

Percentage in workplace: 32%
Career attitude: Freedom, working “with” companies, not “for”
Signature product: Laptop
Communication tools: Email, text message

In the mid-90s, most households in Europe and the US had access to an internet connection, which revolutionised intercommunication and provided fast access to information. Web-based, home offices were now possible and this way of working exploded throughout the western world influencing people’s attitudes to work and adjusting their mindset towards flexible working patterns – it isn’t just what you could do, but how, why and where you could do it.

 

Power and data integration has allowed even seating systems to become a place of productive work - perfect for the on-the-go Millennials (Photobox Group, 2018)

Generation Z (1995 +)

Percentage in workplace: 16%
Career attitude: Transparent and connected
Signature product: Smart phone
Communication tools: Text, social media

Born with social and informational technology at their fingertips, Generation Z are frequently tech-savvy, social media pros. They are also fiercely independent thanks to the widespread integration of the internet in everyday lives,  providing freedom to make quick decisions as to their wants and desires. With Millennials having enjoyed collaborative and flexible working environments, Gen Z expects it as a norm, while also providing spaces that suit their own individual needs. An office with out of date technology, lack of interest in wellbeing and a non-transparent leadership likely won’t fly with this generation as they have a wide distrust of anyone and anything that’s hidden from them (if you do hide it, they’ll probably just Google it anyway).

How do we cater to these diverse generational traits? 

The prospect of creating a workplace for each of these generations shouldn’t be a source of anxiety. People are much more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for and the modern workplace allows us to blend these distinctions and settings to provide the best of all worlds.

Generally, we like learning new things and experiencing different ways in which we can improve how we perform. It’s all about how you introduce the new into the workplace. But showing your workforce that you care about their wellbeing and work performance is a great first step to building a strong workplace culture.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the next instalment of The Future of the Workplace where we will explore how you can bring your office culture into the future with furniture.