It’s no secret that the office landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. Demographics of the workforce are changing, with more women and minorities currently advancing professionally than ever before, and more generations than ever are sharing the workplace as well. Meanwhile, rapidly advancing technology has shifted cultural attitudes about work and office design, as well as the expectations and priorities of both companies and their employees.
At present, three different generations are sharing the workplace – Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. Each generation represents a different perspective and a different set of norms and goals for their careers. For founders, managers, and executive leadership, it can be difficult to maintain a balance between the needs and motivations of the varying generations working within your company. The core question for management today is: how do you attract and retain new talent while satisfying the needs of generations sharing your office?
Understanding Incentives for All Generations
Although Baby Boomers will be the first to exit the workforce, retirement ages are rising and they still undoubtedly play an integral role, often as management, leadership, or independent professionals. With an eye toward the more traditional and hierarchical workplace, Baby Boomers tend to be loyal and goal-oriented, working with companies for the long run if they feel they are being compensated well. They tend to thrive on rewards of money or status, and as the oldest generation in the office, they are likely to be focused on planning their retirement and benefits like sabbaticals, 401(k) matching, and other forms of retirement funding.
Born between 1965 and 1980, members of Generation X were the first to see the integration of modern technology in the workplace, and their values reflect a reaction to the overwork and burnout that were typical of the Baby Boomer generation. Often perceived to be the most independent generation in the workplace today, Gen X places a strong emphasis on work/life balance and flexibility. They also tend to be the most entrepreneurial, making up about 55% of startup founders.
Millennials usually get a bad reputation, but they simply exemplify the evolving values of the modern workplace. While it’s true that Millennials are less likely to stay with one company for a long period of time than previous generations, they do tend to be tech-savvy and community-oriented. Millennials are drawn to companies with mission and clear values, and prefer flexible, collaborative, and non-hierarchical workplaces. Driven by social interaction, they value open-plan offices with up-to-date technology, access to mentorship, challenging team-based work, and networking opportunities. Side perks aren’t lost on Millennials either. Everything from free coffee or an in-house gym to access to expensive equipment and technology or the ability to work remotely can draw in talent from the largest generation currently in the workforce.
Keeping Up with Office Design
The values and attitudes of the different generations sharing the office aren’t the only concern when it comes to keeping up with employee satisfaction. Office design has evolved dramatically from the traditional, hierarchical corporate office of the 1980’s, to the proliferation of decentralized companies, non-traditional offices, startups, remote work opportunities, and shared workspaces that are currently pushing optimal office design forward.
Whether to attract younger talent or to save on overhead costs, more and more companies are getting on board with non-traditional office structures like office hoteling, and using technology like AskCody to help implement these changes seamlessly for everyone (even those who are less than tech-savvy). No matter the generation, all employees benefit from better meetings, better interactions with clients, and better access to information and resources when out of the office.
These more open, flexible and social work spaces are not just more cost-effective, they are also fulfilling an imperative goal of the 21st century: to create a workplace that leads to human interaction. The focus on independence, option, collaboration, and decentralization in the office can be used to build a culture that encourages multiple generations to interact and work together, while also suiting a diverse set of work needs and preferences.
The above are good guidelines for catering to the variety of generations among your employees, but at the end of the day, they are simply generalizations, and there are many other influences at play when it comes to motivating your personnel. Whether you work in a hierarchical, centralized law firm or a decentralized tech startup, knowing your employees, as well as the kinds of employees you would like to attract, is key. Optimal office designwill look different from brand to brand and culture to culture, but the trend is overwhelming heading toward flexible spaces that accommodate a multitude of work styles while also encouraging sharing, collaboration, and skill-building across generations, departments, and titles company-wide.