The time has come for Generation Xers and Millennials to learn to work together. It actually has already begun; more than 40 million millennials have entered the workforce. Some Gen-Xers are finding it easier than others. Each era of employees have lived through major historical events and evolving political climates. It's these cultural shifts among a host of other factors that makes every generation unique. When different generational groups handle situations differently, it's important to recognize and relish in the different outlooks.
Baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) are retiring by the bundle -- around 8,000 per day -- leaving a lot of space for millennials (born between 1982 and 2000) to fill up. These millennials tend to be tech savvy, affordable, and open to change. But they're not afraid to job hop. So if you'd like them to stick around, you'll want to create a workplace culture that reflects their values.
Establish a Casual Culture
Millennials tend to feel alienated by overly formal environments. Business suits and strict office policies give them the willies. Time magazine cited that 79% of millennials prefer to dress casual at work every day, and 93% said that they preferred a work environment where they could be themselves. These "casual culture" ideals tend to clash with older generations who were more likely to prefer a more professional work environment.
Strive to promote a less formal, more social workplace, and encourage younger employees to express themselves and to feel comfortable doing so.
Don't Skimp on Technology
We're talking about a generation whose youngest members never knew a life without the internet, and for the older ones, those are very distant memories. Keeping that in mind, provide your employees with the latest technologies, including smartphones, tablets, computers, and software for each.
A recent study by Accenture found that almost half of all millennials in the workforce want to be able to choose their own technology to complete work tasks. Consider implementing a bring your own mobile device policy to encourage open communication and flow of ideas between employees. This will not only make the millennials already working in your office more happy, but it will also make your company more attractive to new young talent.
Focus on Results
Younger workers undeniably value workplace flexibility. Recent studies have shown that nearly half of all working adults are willing to give up an average of 8 percent of their salary in exchange for more flexibility in their workplace. Of that 45 percent, the younger portion (age 18-34) were willing to relinquish nearly 14 percent of their salary for this privilege, and they consider it a major factor in choosing an employer.
What does this mean, exactly? Resist the urge to micromanage, for one. Millennials value their personal time management skills, and appreciate being entrusted with reaching their own deadlines by their own rules. Second, they thrive on their own schedule. If it's conducive to your business model, why not let them work by the beat of their own drum? Sometimes they're more productive in a coffee shop at midnight than in their cubicle at 10:00 a.m. Test the waters with a pilot program to see how it works out.
Embrace Social Media
While it's important to have IT standards and policies, blocking social media sites from your employees is a huge turn-off. It shows that you don't trust them to manage their time effectively, and it restricts their creative workflow. But possibly more importantly, it shows a sluggish technological mentality. Millennials consider social media to be a way of life that's here to stay, so when employers fight it, it can illustrate vast theological differences.
Some studies have shown that more than half (56 percent) of all millennials will actually not work for, or will think twice about working for a company that blocks social media. It's important for businesses to view social media as an asset rather than a distraction. Energizing young employees to use social media in a positive way can help to organically build your company's brand and increase your social presence.
Listen to Them
Lastly, millennials seek a workplace environment where their thoughts and ideas are valued and applied to help the greater good. Many of them were raised in households where Mom and Dad were friends and mentors, rather than authoritative figures. Similarly, they anticipate the same openness with their bosses.
By no means should you act on every one of their suggestions, but really listening to their ideas and actually considering them will show that you value them as people and as peers. Their young, fresh perspective could be just what you're looking for anyway.
The generational differences between boomers, gen Xers, and millennials have certainly presented a cultural shift in office environments. In many cases pairing groups of individuals with such fundamentally different outlooks can add up to a sticky, awkward scenario for everyone involved. The key is to identify the differences, appreciate them, and find ways to incorporate them into your office culture. When everyone gets along, your company wins.
Author Bio: Miles Young is a freelance writer, designer and business columnist. He's written for established publications like CloudTweaks.