The degree of change that the planet has seasoned over the past 50 years is a staggeringly high amount, and the pace at which a lot of these changes have come about is no less striking. These changes have affected almost every aspect of our lives beyond our basic physical needs and have had a profound effect on how we live our everyday lives.
One area of life that has not escaped these broad changes is the business world. Modern companies may operate within the same fundamental principles of profitability that have governed business since it began, but many of the traits of a successful company trading in the contemporary world would seem alien to businesses of the past.
An interesting issue that modern businesses face is how to handle the different generations of people who make up their workforce. This challenge has been about for a long time, but as the needs of companies change and the skills required have evolved, the differences between workers have become more obvious.
This is partly due to the increasing life expectancy of people, particularly in first world countries, which in turn prompts an ever increasing retirement age. Since people work to a later point in their lives, they may remain with the same organisation into their late 60′s or early 70′s, and often as hands- on workers rather than merely sitting on the board.
There is also a demand for a more diverse range of skills in the modern business surroundings, triggered largely due to the swift development and wide reach of computer technology. Corporate processes, both internal and external, have been subject to significant changes which require a fresh way of thinking. These new ways of thinking are most commonly found within the younger working generation.
One of the most common problems that face a modern business that is operating with a number of different generations in its workforce is related to technology. Computers are commonplace in our lives nowadays and they form a vital piece of the business puzzle. This computing ability can help businesses to run well, but they are only as capable as the individuals who work them.
There are also generational issues when it comes to outward business factors such as the law. New laws and business best practices are being created all of the time and critical business decision makers need to be aware of any that apply to their company. This can be said of sales and promotional channels that have come forth with the rise of the Internet.
Beyond this, there can be problems with communication between different generations of worker, physical limitations of the older personnel in an organisation and the need to satisfy a range of different wants and aspirations to keep an entire workforce satisfied. In a warehouse environment it is crucial to utilise premium industrial shelving by a reputable maker to keep the workforce safe.
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The need to handle generations in the work environment may seem like an unneeded task, but the distinctions between the generations of worker that are often found in business are worth taking note of. The generations of employee that may be found in a modern business can be separated into the following four groups:
Mature, or “traditional”, employees are the oldest that would be found in a modern business environment. They’re the people who were born before the Second World War, and will be in their late 60′s or early 70′s.
Their approach to industry and life in general is one of organisation and obedience. They were expected to make individual sacrifices for the greater good, and while this belief was nurtured under the shadow of an international conflict, many of the older generation still harbour this opinion nowadays.
Since many of the senior generation will hold senior ranks within a company their views and opinions will generally carry more weight than those of younger generations. Their judgements will often be fundamental to the business and shape the future success or failure of the organisation.
The Baby Boomer generation includes those born between the end of the war and the mid- 60′s, while there was a general decline in the birth rate around the world. Baby Boomers will be aged between 45 and 65 approximately and probably form the vast majority of management jobs within a modern business.
This generation grew up without much of the oppression and discipline that was commonplace amongst earlier generations. They are an aspirational group of people that are very family- oriented. They would be the parents of the classic “nuclear family”.
When it comes to the work environment, this group of workers will frequently be able to grasp the bigger picture whilst still maintaining a grasp on modern advances in terms of technologies and business procedures. Their family- oriented character tends to see them working effectively in teams, although it is often noted that they are not comfortable when taking criticism(no matter how helpful) , and they are not good at giving feedback to other employees. These communication issues can become very disruptive in a corporate setting.
Members of Generation X were born between the mid- 60′s and the late- 70′s. They will be presently aged between 30 and 45 and will be spread amongst the various levels of management within a contemporary company.
Socially they grew up in very demanding times. Careers were an ever more important and defining part of people’s lives and this was pointed out to Generation X from a very young age. Many will have progressed through lower and higher education before working their way up within one or perhaps two companies. They are expected to work long and hard hours and frequently both parties in a marriage or relationship will have professions.
Therefore, they are often very good at problem solving and achieving short- term objectives but may struggle to grasp how their contribution affects the big picture. They will be motivated by monetary benefits rather than a sense of duty because they feel they have paid their dues through a life of learning and work. Generation X need close supervision to ensure their efficient contribution to the company.
This generation were born after 1980 and are the youngest collection of people currently at work. They have borne witness to a changing social environment where being an extravert is seldom frowned upon. They are most open to radical concepts and processes and find hyper- consumerism and aggressive promotion to be second nature.
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The Working Environment
We are all familiar with the gap between the elderly generations and modern technological equipment. Whether it is a parent struggling to operate a new mobile phone, or a grandparent being genuinely confused about what the world wide web is, the void between the old and the new becomes very apparent when it comes to technology.
In regards to the newer business, issues involving technology can have very far reaching consequences. Computers are critical to many aspects of business, from managing payroll, to perform core tasks and even providing a channel for marketing. As such, an employee who’s not familiar with the technologies being used by an organisation is likely to find difficulties in many areas of the corporation.
A similar principle may also be applied in reverse. The younger generations might be very comfortable with emerging technologies and routines, but may lack knowledge of the older systems that still carry out many of the critical functions of the business. Internal business practices are rarely black and white so workers ideally need a range of technological skills and understanding.
There are obvious physical factors that may affect how a successful company manages its workers in regard to age. Elderly generations will by and large by physically inferior to their younger counterparts, and consequently they will be less suited to roles that involve physical exertions. There will be exceptions to this in lots of companies, however as a generalisation it’s correct.
Luckily, most of the older generations of employee will have advanced to senior levels of management within the business they work for, and these jobs reward based upon understanding and experience rather than physical ability.
Modern businesses are faced with physical problems that companies of the past would not have had to confront. Complaints like RSI, or repetitive strain injury, have become more common since the widespread launch and use of computer keyboards.
The desk environment itself can create a number of problems if the ergonomics of any specific workstation are not good. Back problems and joint problems can develop after long periods of sitting incorrectly, and long periods of exposure to computer screens can contribute to long- term eye impairment. Tests are on- going to look into the full scale of the impact of the contemporary workplace on the body.
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The control of generations in the workplace has received more exposure over recent years and many more businesses have been made aware of the benefit of effective generational management. This has spawned a number of new ideas and routines that are in one way or another aimed at developing the working rapport between the business and its workers, no matter how old they may be.
If there are particular roles within your business that are best suited to a particular generation then it is often beneficial to only get members of that generation to carry out the task. This kind of specialisation demands good organisational control.
There are a number of ways in which your company can learn about managing different generations of staff. Seminars dedicated to the topic have become a more common event in recent times, and the amount of practical information that can be obtained from these events can be of special benefit to an organisation.
There are also a lot of resources available on the Internet that discuss the matter in more detail, and draw together a range of unique ideas for tackling various situations. Every company has individual needs and a unique workforce so it may take time before you find the correct management method for your company.
If setting your own administrators the job of learning about generations within the workplace does not seem appropriate there are many business consultants that now include the idea of generational management into their practice. Utilising their services could be the most recommended way to address your business situation.
Different generations of employee can find it difficult to work together. They have grown up in distinct times and learnt about a planet that has been continually changing.
Each generation is also stimulated by different things, and have come from various social upbringings. It will rarely be true that one solution can be used across a multitude of generations but it is also important to make sure that your business does not micro- manage the different age groups working for it. The company must do what is best for its own good results.
Modern businesses have a varied range of skills requirements and these needs simply cannot be fulfilled by just one of the generations discussed on this page. As is so frequently the case, the path to success depends upon discovering a balance between the generations- employing the advantages, mitigating the weaknesses and encouraging accordingly – through educated and empathetic management.