There are currently five generations working together in American workplaces, representing both a challenge and an opportunity. A whitepaper from the University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies, “Collaborative and Strategic Planning to Meet the Needs of a Multigenerational Workforce and the Organization,” looked at the differences between these workers and the steps organizations can take to ensure that they are fulfilled and productive.
The paper relied on data, in part, from the University of Phoenix’s 2022 Career Optimism Index, a comprehensive study of American workers’ perceptions about their jobs and opportunities. Author Sandra G. Sessoms-Penny, Ed.D., faculty member of the University of Phoenix College of Education and fellow of the University’s Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research (CWDIR), has held numerous roles in education including as a teacher, school administrator and instructional leader in the public sector.
Supporting Workers Begins with Understanding Generational Differences
The whitepaper lays out the five generations currently coexisting in workplaces and the differences across Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z. The percentage of those Traditionalists, born between 1901 and 1924 is fairly small, the paper notes, adding that this generation who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II favors one-on-one communication and longevity with one organization.
Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, represent 25 percent of the workforce, although many are retiring. Shaped by an era that included the Civil Rights Movement and the American Dream as an achievable ideal, this generation is “motivated by loyalty from leaders and other employees,” the author writes, adding that they prefer team effort, face-to-face or telephone interactions and earning one’s success.
Generation X represents a large portion of the workforce at 33 percent and had varied historical experiences that included the fall of the Berlin Wall, higher divorce rates and more women entering the workforce. Born between 1965 and 1980, this generation of workers prizes diversity and work-life balance. They tend to be flexible, Sessoms-Penny wrote, and welcoming of change.
The Millennials, or Generation Y, are the largest segment of the workforce at 35 percent. These younger workers have been shaped by 9/11, school shootings and pervasive technology and social media. This generation, born between 1981 and 1996, wants leaders who acknowledge their work, who provide opportunities for growth and who are committed to doing better. This is a group dedicated to social change outside and inside the workplace who are seeking creative input, flexibility and a healthy work-life balance.
Finally, the iGen Generation or Generation Z is still a small percentage of the workforce at just 5 percent. They came of age during a time marked by political division, technological expansion and a global pandemic. They have experienced widespread virtual learning and activism and look to technology to solve their problems. Not surprisingly, Gen Z favors virtual communication.
How Organizations Can Meet the Needs of Different Generations
Looking at communication style and comfort with technology, there are massive differences between the generations. So how can an organization meet their needs? The whitepaper outlines that coaching and mentoring are key strategies. There is also an opportunity for organizations to provide in-demand skills that align with the needs of changing industries by collaborating with an educational institution like University of Phoenix. Through its Workforce Solutions program, University of Phoenix offers workplaces a tailored skills plan that helps them identify skills gaps and then design a program with credit-bearing courses and certificates that helps to fill those gaps and for employees to remain engaged and apply for new internal opportunities.
And as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, workers are able to successfully work remotely, and many prefer it. To accommodate those workers, particularly those in younger generations, Sessoms-Penny wrote that companies should recognize and build on the success of remote work. Organizations need to let their employees have influence in other ways, too, she wrote, including through their creativity and problem-solving skills as well as through their technology skills and adaptability. This, she wrote, “will have residual influence and dynamic growth for the multigenerational workforce and organization and industry.”
Sessoms-Penny earned a Doctor of Education Degree in Educational Administration and Policy Studies from The George Washington University and served over 21 years in the United States Air Force, At the end of her military career, she was a senior-level non-commissioned officer and paralegal superintendent in military law offices throughout the United States and in Europe.
About University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix is committed to advancing the educational goals of adult and nontraditional learners and is highly rated by its students for career preparation, flexible learning options and supportive learning environment. The University’s degree programs are aligned with numerous in-demand career paths including in IT, nursing and business, and they provide numerous start dates, online classes, and a variety of scholarship opportunities to make it possible for anyone to pursue a degree. In addition, the University of Phoenix’s Career Services for Life® commitment to active students and graduates provides the resources needed to be competitive in the workforce for no additional charge. These services include resume and interview support, career guidance, education and networking opportunities. Numerous Recognized Student Organizations (RSOs) provide University of Phoenix students and alumni with lifelong connections that can help them network. For more information, visit www.phoenix.edu.