With the rapid acceleration of technological advancements, each generation has a different baseline of technical skills. Like most things, the earlier you start learning specialized skills, the easier it is to retain those skills and build on them in the future.
Younger generations (Millennials, Gen Z, Gen Alpha) are usually more comfortable with using technology in their work, education, and daily lives than the generations before them. In today’s digital age, change is inevitable and constant. New technological developments are released rapidly, rendering older products and practices obsolete and leading to challenges in a multi-generational workplace. Currently, four generations make up the American workforce: Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1980), Millennials or Generation Y (born 1981-1996), and Generation Z (born 1997-2012). Not only can this technological divide impact day-to-day work operations, but it can also impact training, professional development, and management techniques in modern work environments.
Learning and Technology for Baby Boomers:
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are a generation that had little application for modern, digital technology in the office workspace. Examples of technologies used in the workplace included the landline telephone, television, radio, and typewriters. However, they saw rapid advancements in digital infrastructure as they grew older. Given the technological climate they grew up in, Boomers are generally more comfortable talking to and learning from people in person and making phone calls rather than sending emails or attending online meetings/training sessions.
Learning and Technology for Generation X:
Generation X (born 1965-1980) was more integrated with technology earlier in life than the Boomers and is generally more comfortable and adaptable to new advancements. Similarly, their generation only had mild immersion in technology compared to today’s intensely tech-savvy workplace and world. Gen X had many of the same technologies as the Baby Boomers until they became young adults, and the computer became commonplace. Some industries and schools were more computer-focused than most, but computers weren’t standard in workplaces, schools, and homes until the mid-1990s. Because they grew up without computers and eventually used them as adults, many of this generation appreciate the conveniences computers created. Still, they can recall the positives of the previous era as well. While Generation X still leans slightly toward sharing learning and working preferences with Boomers (in-person instruction/meetings, demonstrations featuring concrete examples, and phone calls), GenX members look at technology much more positively than the previous generation. They are more comfortable utilizing tech to advance their productivity.
Learning and Technology for Millennials:
Millennials (born 1981-1996) were raised during the beginning of the Internet Age. At first, the internet wasn’t as inescapable as today, so Millennials have memories of the world with limited tech and connectivity. However, Millennials’ access to social media through their formative years undoubtedly impacted their views on technology and how it relates to school, work, and society. With social media booming, the smartphone rising to prominence, and online gaming taking off during their younger years, Millennials became more accustomed to engaging digitally than their older counterparts. They often prefer texts and emails to phone calls. Millennials were also the first generation to experience significant online schooling, so they are often more comfortable learning and working remotely. A hybrid work model would probably greatly appeal to this generation, as they are acclimated to the new digital landscape but can recall when things were less digitized. While they can work and learn in person, this generation marked a significant shift in a preference toward digital interaction that has only escalated with Generation Z.
Learning and Technology for Generation Z:
Generation Z (born 1997-2012) is a generation that was born and raised in the Internet Age. In their youth, most of this generation had constant access to technology at home and school, including computers, tablets, smart TVs, smartphones, and smartwatches. Whereas previous generations may have only had access to new technology at school or work, Generation Z is rarely unplugged. Their generation has had more digital connectivity than any other, which shows in Generation Z’s preferences regarding learning, working, and interacting socially. Much of Generation Z was in school or just entering the workforce during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing them to adjust to primarily remote education, social, and work experience. This has driven them to view remote work and schooling as usual. While there are some exceptions, most Generation Z members prefer to do things remotely/digitally or in a hybrid model, including a preference for texts and emails over phone calls, online meetings over physical ones, and an added comfort in doing just about everything on a computer.
The most critical aspects of unifying a team of varying age demographics are community, communication, and collaboration. A team supporting each other’s growth is vital to a successful intergenerational workforce. The different key here is meeting employees halfway. It is critical to have options available for every employee, whether optional company meetups in person, virtual training sessions, or allowing people to list a preference about whether they get called or emailed. These are just some steps an employer can take to ensure a comfortable and productive work environment for all generations.
At ATCO, we value supporting our team members, helping them learn new skills, and maximizing comradery to tap into everyone’s potential. With thorough training, robust professional development, and support from management and fellow workers, we strive to empower all our team members to thrive today and in the future.
Which generation are you a part of? How does technology affect your productivity at work? Share this blog post with your community and begin to think critically about creating an equitable work environment for all generations.