Employees are breaking down generational stereotypes

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Millennial and Gen Z employees are arguably the most vocal of the four generations making up today’s workforce, driven by frustration over challenges previous generations haven’t faced in the same way, like student loans. These vocal employees may have learned from previous generations about what are acceptable expectations from employers.

A common belief is different generations butt heads in the workplace as they attempt to coexist. But this misconception is the result of stereotypes that are constantly perpetuated through generational think pieces, according to data from Addison Group, a staffing agency for professional services.

The Addison Group survey found that most employees have no complaints about the age composition of their workplaces. Indeed, 92% of employees surveyed are satisfied with the diversity of age ranges in their workplace and 86% agree that employees in their age group are respected in the workplace.

“When combined and shared, each generation’s strengths can propel the workplace forward with new ideas, processes, and opportunities,” Addison Group survey says.

Allison Betancourt, vice president of people strategy at Addison Group spoke with Employee Benefit Adviser to discuss the survey results and generational issues within the workplace.

How are the different generations truly interacting with one another in the workplace?
Seemingly the generations work very well with one another. We experience that here, and we see that in the results of the study. So a lot of the feeling or the hype, or the articles you can read about how one generation relates to another is really probably more rooted in stereotype. I think that where companies are starting to get better is in recognizing what strengths people bring to the table. That can even be outside of whatever generational bucket an employee falls into. You see a lot of organizations empowering their millennials or their Gen Z folks to do more training and help upskill the boomers and Xers when it comes to technology.

The survey found that millennials are the generation most unsatisfied with their salary. Why is that?
They are very vocal, bringing things to the forefront within organizations that maybe were taboo in the past. That could most definitely have something to do with it. Millennials are in an interesting spot in the workplace. You’ve got boomers, but there’s not a whole ton of them; you’ve got a lot of Gen Xers and now you’ve got Gen Z coming up. Millennials are starting to sit more in the middle and that creates a unique workplace perspective. What our study highlighted is that at the end of the day these groups really do work well together. The perceptions of generation to generation are not always accurate or fair.

What are the top concerns among Gen Z employees?
They are very concerned with money, many of them were raised during the economic downturn. Without being involved in those salary negotiation conversations, there’s something to be said with Gen Z getting more of what they want than millennials.

What does the survey say about the way compensation has evolved among the generations?
Things to consider are the perks and benefits in the workplace that actually do end up playing a role in how employees view their compensation. We know that the younger generations want more flexibility. They want greater work-life balance. They want to be able to work from home, and they want to be able to make their own hours. I know personally from my employees, they do view that as part of their perks and the value they are getting from the organization. The other part of it though, there is a growing expectation among Gen Z and millennial employees that there has to be far greater transparency around compensation bars within organizations.

How do employee benefits play a role in the workplace dynamic across the different generations?
This is a hot topic of conversation within our organization. I think what companies oftentimes forget is the hierarchy of needs. At the baseline employees need to be able to have a roof over their heads, feed themselves, and get healthcare. So, you can have as many ping pong tables, free flowing coffee all day long, snacks and all of that happening. But if people don’t have their basic needs met, then none of that stuff matters. I believe that Gen Z is very pragmatic when it comes to [benefits] and they look at these things very seriously. I’m frequently surprised by the young folks coming into our organization with very sophisticated questions about what type of benefits the company offers and really wanting to put pen to paper and determining, when looking at all of their offers, which is the best one.

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