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9/9/14: GENERATION... NEXT?

The most recent articles, blogs and tweets tell us all that the newest generation is poised to impact us all.

Generation-Z has been generally identified as those born after 1995 and projected to begin retiring in 2063.They are the first “Digital Natives” who were born with an iPhone in hand and who utilize technology an average of 10 hours per day.

It was only 15 months ago when Time magazine declared on one of its most famous covers that the Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists still living with their parents who will one day save us all. Before them were Generation-X, the Baby-Boomers, and the Traditionalists – taking us back a century from where we stand today.

Of course, the media enjoy defining and labeling the generations. It creates interesting discussions and is truly something any person can relate to.

I would prefer to take it beyond the obvious observations of each group to the real trend of the workforce now being comprised of at least three, if not four of those generations in a typical office setting. As I sit at my desk at Boston College typing with my fingers (not my thumbs), I have Baby-Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials working around me while I see Gen-Z students waiting for appointments to discuss internships that will place them in the workplace in just a few months. If we all carry such definitive labels including stubborn, loyal, carefree, unmotivated, lazy, flexible, hard-working, distracted, privileged, and so forth, how could we possibly get along in the workplace? Moreover, how can we possibly get our work done and be part of a productive organization?

When I first went to work after college, it was the Traditionalists supervising the Baby-Boomers and occasionally some of the Baby-Boomers supervising each other. Gen-X had to get in line. Today the reporting lines and dotted lines look very different (if there are lines drawn at all).Whether you find it intimidating, frightening, refreshing, or confusing, we can’t get away from the notion that it is worthy of our attention.

As employment professionals, we can serve Generation-Z and all those who came through previously by preparing them for a diverse workplace of a different type. It will not be uncommon for young employees to be working alongside colleagues older than their own grandparents. We don’t necessarily need to label college students as being technologically savvy and wanting to become independently wealthy by age 29.They already know that! However, it may be worthwhile to empower and enable them to work productively with talented people who are not so technically inclined and who may have spent a lifetime building a valuable and productive career. Multiple generations in the workplace create a diversity that can build off each other’s strengths and address each other challenges.

By the way, we have just run out of letters…What’s next?