There is no denying workplaces have gotten younger. In early 2015, millennials became the largest generation in the labor force, beating baby boomers for the title.
For baby boomers, this can be an unsettling change. The two generations often have very different ideas of workplace culture. That said, it is an “embrace your differences” moment. The more the two generations learn about their differences in the workplace, the more they can accomplish together.
When you examine the two generations, there are some key differences you can expect. Not all of them will apply to everyone, of course. That said, see how many you are familiar with in your workplace.
Preferences in the Work Setting
You probably picture boomers in suits and millennials in t-shirts and jeans. Young startup culture is no longer just in Silicon Valley—it has seeped into workplaces everywhere. But there’s more to it than a casual dress code.
- Work Schedules
Boomers expect standard business hours of 9-5. They are committed to working hard and knocking tasks out in one go. Millennials prefer flexible hours where they can take breaks in between tasks and move work around their personal schedule.
- Where Work Can Be Done
Boomers think of the office as the one and only place to get work done. They try to finish work by the end of the day so they can get home. Millennials don’t see the need to be in the office on a daily basis. They like the idea of working remotely from home or a coffee shop.
- The Workspace
Boomers prefer having space just to themselves, whether that’s a cubical or an office. Meetings are where collaboration happens. Millennials prefer open offices where they can casually collaborate with their teammates.
Differences in Work Ethic
Boomers have more experience in the workforce, while millennials are just starting their careers. When it comes to their jobs, the two generations have different foci and ideas of how their work should support them.
Millennials look for mentors, often from the boomer generation, to guide them—in everyday task management and full-on career advice. Boomers are used to learning from first-hand experience and don’t require as much guidance as their younger counterparts.
Millennials like to get frequent feedback. They want the freedom to ask as many questions as needed. Boomers prefer to work through problems on their own and require less feedback.
- Work Benefits
Millennials put vacation policies and company-provided food and recreation high on their list when job searching. They want a place that’s fun to work. Boomers are more focused on salary, health benefits, and retirement plans. They care little about in-office benefits because they are there to work, not play.
Baby boomers have witnessed the evolution of modern technology, but millennials have grown up with it. Because of this, there is a huge technological gap between the two generations. This affects how they view new technological changes in the workplace.
- Comfort With Tech
Boomers have a longer learning curve than millennials, who have a more practical understanding of using technology effectively in the workplace.
- Embracing New Technologies
Boomers often view technology as shortcuts and can be skeptical of how new technologies can aid them. They are slow to adopt new solutions. Millennials prefer to integrate new technological solutions into the workplace as much and as fast as possible, viewing them as ways to increase their productivity.
- Usage of Personal Devices
Boomers know how to keep away from personal devices in the workplace and avoid mixing work with personal life. Millennials feel it’s important to have freedom in how they use their personal devices and are more easily tempted by their distraction.
In the end, no generation is better. Neither makes for better employees. Whether you are a boss, manager, or peer, it is important to understand how the other side thinks. Once baby boomers and millennials understand their differences, they can learn from each other and grow stronger together to make an effective team.
Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian.