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Sponsored by: WellSpark
May 17, 2022

Understanding and Managing Different Generations Across Your Workforce

By Andi Campbell, Chief Growth Officer, WellSpark Health


What a time to be alive and working. The pandemic and the seemingly never-ending negative headlines on national and global issues have made us mentally exhausted on the job. To complicate matters, our age and the generation we identify with can affect our response to changes at work, how we interact with one another and our employer, and how we approach our work responsibilities more broadly during these tumultuous times.

Five different generations comprise the current U.S. workforce: Traditionalists (76 to 99 years old), Baby Boomers (57 to 75), Generation X (41 to 56), Generation Y or Millennials (26 to 40), and Generation Z (25 years old and younger). And let’s not forget the micro-generation Xennials, born at the end of Generation X and the beginning of the Millennials generation.

The events of each generation’s time shape their identity and how they perceive work. Baby Boomers lived through the Vietnam War, civil rights movement, and assassinations of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Generation Z grew up with acts of terrorism, a rise in mass shootings, and fighting gender inequality and climate change. What do you remember most from your generation?

We’ve also been shaped by technology. From telephones and TVs to email, text messaging, social media, and touchscreen devices, how we receive and respond to information and interact through technology can create challenges amongst different generations at work.

As a result, we experience differences in values and what we seek from the workplace. Baby Boomers are often optimistic, value equal rights and workplace visibility, and want to roll up their sleeves and get involved. Generation X is pragmatic and values work/life balance, independence, and having fun. Millennials are confident and tech-savvy and value creativity and diversity. Generation Z is resilient, and they, too, value diversity, openness, and a sense of individual identity.

Each generation tends to have different perceptions of one another at work. Baby Boomers might think Millennials are entitled and Gen Xers and Yers are lazy. Gen Xers might think Gen Zers are addicted to their phones. Millennials and Gen Zers might think earlier generations are slow and have a sense of apathy toward them in general. Another complex dynamic is that Baby boomers and Gen Xers raised these two generations.

What does this mean for employers continuing to navigate a post-COVID workplace? How employees respond to a crisis – like the pandemic – can differ. As employers, it’s essential to create a workplace culture that speaks to the needs of each generation, rather than one that only meets the employer’s needs, and use these different perspectives to achieve greater success as a team.

For example, it’s crucial to respect Boomers’ work experience and ask them to mentor younger employees. They might find they can learn from the newer generations too. For Xers, coach them, provide meaningful work, and don’t force group work on them if they don’t respond well.

Millennials crave structure, clear expectations, leadership, and guidance. Employers should encourage self-assuredness while promoting work/life integration. Working with Gen Zers means having regular check-ins, giving honest feedback, and giving them a voice while creating space for teamwork and human interaction.

At WellSpark, we recently launched SparkSocial Group Coaching for employers. It’s a new wellbeing solution that offers employees a sense of community, peer support, social accountability, and shared experiences. In addition to topics like Navigating Burnout and Living Well with Chronic Disease, we are working with employers to help them bridge the generational gaps among their employees to create a more compassionate, cohesive workforce.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, employers must toss aside antiquated work policies and embrace flexibility, reframing “time” in the workplace and questioning the “how it has always been” environment that negatively impacts large swaths of their workforce. Regardless of the age of a workforce, employee wellbeing matters. In looking back at our journey through the pandemic, it’s evident that we as employers and employees are capable of not only adjusting to new workplace norms, but also, caring for each other as humans, too. And that is what today’s employees expect.

Andi Campbell is Chief Growth Officer of WellSpark Health, a leading wellbeing, disease prevention, and management company based in Farmington, CT, that delivers a full suite of customized programs to support the modern workforce in achieving their personal wellbeing.