How to Manage Millennials vs Baby Boomers in the Workplace

January 22, 2019 Pete Newsome Pete Newsome

The modern job market is a candidate’s market. With a national unemployment rate of 3.9% and more jobs than available talent to fill them, gone are the days when employers ruled the market with the ability to cherry pick top candidates with enticements such as flashy job titles and cushy compensation packages. As such, businesses have to shift their approach to hiring and retaining talent.

Age diversity in the workplace is an important issue that every business faces as older generations retire and millennials increasingly enter the workforce. According to an article by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “Baby boomers” constitute those born between 1946 and 1964, and Generation Y, also known as “Millennials,” encompasses those born between 1980 and 1995.

Millennials and baby boomers in the workplace have different work styles, motivations, values, and interests. Once you understand the differences in expectations and motivations of millennials vs. baby boomers in the workplace, you can tailor your management style to drive productivity and engagement.

Differences Between Millennials and Baby Boomers in the Workplace

Employee Motivations for Baby Boomers vs Millennials

Different generations are motivated by different things, according to the SHRM article. Effectively managing baby boomers in the workplace requires a different approach than managing their Generation Y counterparts.

The article goes on to say that baby boomers tend to be motivated by “monetary rewards but also value nonmonetary rewards such as flexible retirement planning and peer recognition.” They tend to have ambitious aspirations motivated by opportunities for professional development and promotions that place them in positions of authority. They view no news about their performance as good news, although they like to have their expertise valued and recognized by their peers.

The SHRM article indicates that the millennial generation, on the other hand, tends to want “stock options as a monetary reward and values feedback as a nonmonetary reward.” When managing millennials in the workplace, it’s not enough to simply place them in a position and expect them to do whatever they are told without question or being asked for input. This group wants to have a greater sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose for their work earlier in their careers. Millennials also value receiving feedback, mentorship opportunities, skills training, and a workplace culture that supports and encourages these traits.

Cultural Environment for Millennials vs Baby Boomers in the Workplace

According to Forbes, understanding your employees’ motivations and creating a workplace environment or culture that encourages them is not a matter of giving into millennials:

“Everything you can do inside your organization to facilitate stronger autonomy, mastery and purpose is not about pandering to the millennials. It’s about aligning your culture with deep, human motivations — across generations — that makes people more successful.”

When managing millennials, embrace age diversity in the workplace by pairing baby boomers with them to serve as mentors and vice versa. After all, the older generation can also learn from their younger colleagues.

Another critical point to drive home is that it’s vital to provide every employee with equal opportunities. Regardless of whether they have no experience or more than 20 years in your industry, every employee can contribute their thoughts and ideas — as well as their concerns — to help improve your workplace. Listening to their diverse viewpoints can help bring your company to the next level.

Flexibility Concerning Work Hours and Locations for Baby Boomers vs Millennials

When it comes to flexibility, millennials in the workplace tend to voice their preference for employers who offer versatility concerning their work hours and remote work opportunities. However it may be surprising to know that the average telecommuter is older than the average employee.

Citing research from the State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce report by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, The Huffington Post reports:

“And the older we are, the more likely we are to work remotely. Employees who are 65 or older are 1.7 times more likely to telecommute than the average employee. Those 55 to 64 years old are 1.2 times more likely. And those 35 to 54 years old are 1.1 times more likely.”

Employee Pay and Benefits for Baby Boomers vs Millennials

We know that baby boomers and millennials value monetary rewards. However, when it comes to employee pay and benefits, there are different preferences when comparing millennials vs baby boomers in the workplace. According to the SHRM article, baby boomers tend to value sabbaticals, 401(k) matching funds, and catch-up retirement funding, whereas millennials tend to prefer stock options, flexible schedules, and continued education opportunities.  

Usage of Technology by Millennials and Baby Boomers

Technology is a huge factor in the decision to take a job for many millennials vs. baby boomers in the workplace:

  • Millennials and Technology in the Workplace: Millennials continually strive to stay ahead of the curve concerning technology and discovering new ways to increase the speed and efficiency of tasks. Process automation is significantly important to this generation as they move to adopt more streamlined processes and embrace digital transformation. Furthermore, millennials tend to lean toward digital communication methods such as texting, emails, and chat platforms.

  • Baby Boomers and Technology in the Workplace: While still important, technology is not as much of an influence for baby boomers in the workplace. Workers of this generation are less likely to report using major technology tools and platforms such as cloud-based word processing or spreadsheet applications. Baby boomers also tend to prefer communicating face-to-face or via phone calls because they feel both methods are more personal than digital communications.

Hiring & Retaining the Right Employees

As an employer, it’s vital to put the right people in place to meet the needs of your company. The right employees can help your business scale and push the needle. Some employers do this through in-house recruiting and hiring while others partner with professional staffing agencies to ensure they are getting the best talent. No matter whether they are a baby boomer, millennial, or fall within another generation, a reliable and knowledgeable professional headhunter will recruit, screen, and hire the best candidate for the job.

4 Corner Resources (4CR) continually ranks among the top Orlando headhunters and staffing agencies, serving large and small businesses throughout central Florida and around the United States. To learn how we can help your business, contact our team of client managers today.


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