Understanding Your Multi-Generational Workforce

Laura Wojciechowski, CPA, EA, PFS is a partner and serves as the firm’s president.

My fellow partners and I recently attended a symposium conducted by Enterprise Worldwide. The organization is an alliance of independent accounting and advisory firms working together to provide the best possible service to clients on a worldwide basis. Belonging to Enterprise makes available to our firm a pool of knowledge and experience to address the international and other specialized business needs of our clients whenever needed.

Professional development programs are another benefit of our Enterprise membership, and the symposium offered topics of general business interest and those geared to CPA firms. One of the sessions I attended was on the challenge for business owners to manage four different generations of workers in their organizations. The presenter was Guy Gage of PartnersCoach.

Gage explained that 20th Century generations include Builders (born between 1930 and 1945), Baby Boomers ((born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) and Generation Y (born between 1981 and 1995).

Each group has its own distinct characteristics, values, and attitudes toward work, based on its generation’s life experiences. Parenting style, education philosophy and defining moments are major influencers. 

  • Builders. Builders are considered among the most loyal workers and “work to live.” They are planners, tend to be cautious, but hopeful, and have great respect for authority. They value hard work, duty before fun and adherence to the rules. 
  • Baby Boomers. Boomers are the first generation to actively declare a higher priority for work over personal life. They value collaboration and teamwork. They are more optimistic and open to change than the prior generation, but they are also responsible for the “Me Generation” with its pursuit of personal gratification. Their generation’s motto would be “Just do it.” 
  • Generation Xers. Generation Xers are often considered the “slacker” generation. They naturally question authority figures and are responsible for creating the work/life balance concept. They are self-reliant and tend to be more pessimistic than other generations. They need to be appreciated and like direct and immediate communication.
  • Generation Ys. This group has an appreciation for diversity and social contributions. Because of significant gains in technology and an increase in educational programming during the 1990s, Generation Ys are also the most educated generation of workers today and they like to work with other bright, creative people. They want to have challenging work or they will move on. They have high expectations, may seem overconfident and seek recognition of their talent. At times, they can appear impatient.

Gage said that to successfully integrate these diverse generations into the workplace, companies need to create a culture that actively demonstrates respect and inclusion for its multigenerational work force and to embrace major changes in recruitment and benefits.

Learning how to communicate with the different generations can eliminate many major confrontations and misunderstandings in an organization and lead to a more productive and effective workplace.

If you would like more information about this presentation, contact Laura Wojciechowski.