It is estimated that there are up to five generations in the workplace, each with its pros and cons.  It is very easy for the older generation to lament about the ‘youth of today’ with their ubiquitous use of mobile devices and multiple screens.

In a real-life example, the Boomer Chairman of the Board may tell the younger generation to close their laptops during a board meeting.  While he is using pen and paper, he may not understand that the laptops were being used for the same purpose.

The older, or more experienced employees, have at some time pointed out the younger employees’ sense of entitlement or lack of loyalty and work ethic. The assumption is that the younger generation wants the recognition and titles faster, without ‘paying their dues’.

After all, there was always an understanding that you start at a lower-level role, work hard, put in the hours, and remain with a company for several years – and only then would the rewards appear. Stay longer and a great pension awaits. Millennials and their younger Gen Z counterparts face sweeping criticism over their level of commitment to the workplace. However, is that view warranted?

Ivan Radmore, CEO of the free-to-access online business platform BuzzApex, believes the truth lies somewhere in between, “The attitude of many young people is created by the world in which they were raised. A large part of their attitude is borne out of entering a workplace with massive turnover rates, an unstable economy, and a more competitive business environment. Additionally, they were fed on a steady diet of new technology and innovation that emphasizes quicker results with the opportunity to effect change on a sizeable scale. “

The fact is, not all generations fit neatly into the boxes of past stereotypes. However, the divide between the thinking or a new versus older generation is nothing new and we can look back to the 80s, the 60s and further. For example, those from post-world war two placed emphasis on trades, the 60s saw rebellion, the 80s saw the start of globalisation and today we’re in an era of technology where machines are becoming more useful than ever before with the young minds ready to consume this new phase in our evolution.

‘It’s always been done that way’ doesn’t resonate with the younger generations.

The older generation is often cited as believing that younger people don’t quite grasp the notion of strict dress codes or meetings. Many companies are guilty of grasping on to these hallmarks of traditional business as if the bottom line depended on it. If someone sporting a pair of the latest trainers gets the job done well, who needs a perfectly ironed shirt? Can you question the complaint that many meetings could have been emails – or a simplified online work tracking tool instead? Another gripe is the reliance on ‘Googling’ information. While the value of education is unquestionable, the internet embodies the total of all human knowledge – so why not use it?

Younger people often want tasks done in the most efficient, least time-consuming way possible to squeeze out the max results. The older generations know from experience the potential for perceived freedoms from stiff business conduct but know that proper presentation should be applied as tools for personal discipline and the maintenance of order.

Selfies aren’t selfish

Many people look at how much time young people spend on the phone taking selfies or capturing last night’s first attempt at macaroni and cheese and cringe. Yes, it can be off-putting with no fancy filter to fix your opinion. However, that device in their hand has changed how things are done – while still not changing the basics of business.

People born in the 90s have embraced the power of technology in a way that’s unimaginable to those who fell in love with the Rubix Cube. This affinity for digital innovation is a big plus in the workplace.

“As a company that provides online business tools that help customers assign work, track jobs, create paperless financial systems and even find and target customers, technology is the name of our game. We have noticed many times that younger people were the first ones who enquired about our offering. The value we add is made possible by those who think technology-first – and that’s usually younger thinkers in a company who are keenly in tune with the lessons learnt by earlier generations, “says Radmore.

It’s time to go away

A millennial is armed with technology and the Internet. They no longer want that corner office or desk, fixed-working hours, or pension plan like past generations did. They are more attracted by friendly work culture, a lack of micromanagement and bureaucracy. When Covid-19 forced the world into lockdown in 2020, it was the younger generation that adapted faster and, in many instances, proved their value – even if the work got emailed at two am.

The value of new generation thinking and even their relationship with technology can be harnessed by all industry sectors. It may be time to look beyond the age and see the contributions and the true value by all coming together and embracing the best that each brings to the table.

If we can, business could just be child’s play.

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