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Bridging the divide: Generations in the workforce

Posted at 9:42 AM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 11:42:46-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — Over the years in the workplace, stereotypes have come up when it comes to the various generations working for their paycheck.

Whether it's incessant complaining by baby boomers or the laziness of millennials, just about every generation gets its fair share of complaints.

"It started out as just griping about millennials, and like okay, you guys got that out of your system, you know you need them, here's why you need them," Scott Van Ness, an instructor at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs said.

Van Ness has studied the generational differences in work places, and how managers can effectively work among the various age differences.

"Millennials and Gen Z'ers might operate a little differently, they're going to ask more questions in the workplace, they haven't had the opportunity to problem solve as much as the other generations," Van Ness said.

Take workers like Bailey Ashida for instance, a Gen Z'er working as a career coach in Colorado Springs. She graduated college at 19 years old, and being around people a few years older than her, she doesn't necessarily identify with her generation.

"Even from the start of high school, I ended up skipping a grade so I was always in classes with people older than me I kind of identify with more of the younger generation," Ashida said.

Ashida says one of the bigger changes when it comes to the generational divide, is the emphasis on mental health and having a work-life balance. She says her peers see mental health days as a necessity and work for places that align with their personal values.

"Values are extremely important and it's so weird to think about but we spend more time with our coworkers than our partners or our family at home, so it'd be nice if we actually got a long with them," Ashida said.

Van Ness says there are various skills each generation is going to bring to the table, and it's important for managers to take a good look at what those skills are.

"You'll find that there are a lot more commonalities than there aren't and the strength of the different workforces can help," Van Ness said.

For example, communication styles among younger works compared to older workers are going to vary. As are the understanding of various technologies.

"We're advising if you're hiring new employees, things that you haven't had to work on with your other generations, you might have to spend a little time on it, "Van Ness said, "it's not that they're bad at it, they just haven't done it."