Know your employees: who is hiding behind Generation X, Y and Z

2021 01 29 · 2 min read

During the lockdown, human resources specialists have often received requests from companies seeking to ‘cement their team’, to motivate people who are now working in front of screens, and to improve their communication and work ethic. However, those who love saying that the team should be as ‘solid as a fist’ need to know they should start seeing their team not as a fist, but as individual fingers.

Individual employees are not and cannot all be the same: they differ in terms of their needs, their ability to accept feedback and their views of the employer. To be able to have them working smoothly as one team, you must first know and understand their differences. One of the best ways to approach your staff is through the lens of their generations. 

Recognising Generation X, Y and Z among your staff

  • The generation born between 1946 and 1964 is currently between 57 and 75 years old. Their portion of the active labour market is now fairly small.
  • Generation X – people born between 1965 and 1980. This generation has been the core of the labour market for a long period of time, although depending on the sector, they are gradually surrendering their positions to Generation Y.
  • Generation Y – the millennial generation, or people born between 1981 and 1996. This groups now make up the majority of the participants in the labour market.
  • Generation Z – the youngest generation, with members that were born between 1997 and 2015. This group is only starting to make its entry into the labour market.

Your staff will most likely be composed of these generations in different proportions. We suggest that you perform a simple analysis to see which generation dominates your staff. For example, more than a half of the employees at Baltic Amadeus are members of Generation Y, but there has lately been a significant influx from Generation Z.

Understanding the kind of communication that your employees expect

As an IT company that has been employing telecommuting practices for almost a year now, Baltic Amadeus places a strong emphasis on the most effective ways of interacting with our staff. A survey was conducted with nearly 200 company employees with the aim of finding out the most suitable methods of communicating and providing feedback. This survey resulted in several interesting insights:

  • Generation Z is the group that needs the most feedback and attention. The frequency of feedback is also important, as members of Generation Z are more impulsive, as well as being quicker to complete their tasks or undertake new projects. They are driven by fast results – therefore, it is critical that feedback is delivered regularly, with an emphasis on their development and growth, by clearly pinpointing what the employee has done well and the areas for improvement. By providing specific comments, the members of Generation Z achieve faster growth. However, the source of the comment or praise is completely irrelevant, as this generation tends to be equally appreciative of insights from their superiors and their peers.
  • Generation Y has been in the labour market for a number of years and has a certain amount of experience and expert knowledge under its belt; hence, it has a different perception of feedback. In general, this generation needs less feedback, but it has to be constructive. We have noticed that the members of this generation care a great deal about positive reviews of their performance but, in contrast to Generation Z, they have difficulty in accepting negative comments. With this generation, the source of the message also matters, because the authority and competence of the person delivering the message is indicative of its importance.
  • Continuous improvement is important to every employee without exception, but Generation X is that group that has the most difficulty adjusting to change. Often, they need evidence that a change is necessary and results in an improvement. However, this generation is also the most willing to compromise and cooperate with other teams, while gladly investing time in getting to know their colleagues. The members of Generation X tare true team-builders – all they need is a bit of empowerment.

Effective tactics for smooth daily operations

Effective feedback is important for any company and has to be delivered all the time. By successfully employ the dynamics of different generations and finding the best ways of connecting with people, you first of all need to identify the right ways of communicating and offering feedback:

  1. How to choose the right channel for communication with the member of a particular generation: answer the message via the channel by which it was received.
  2. Make an agreement for team communication: the purpose of a communication agreement is to set formal guidelines that highlight the rules for how the team members should communicate with one another, which is very relevant in today’s hi-tech, digital working environment. This agreement will help establish the expectations and boundaries, to protect critical work and to facilitate communication.
  3. Agree on the right channel for to the message you want to deliver:
    • A phone call is great for an in-depth, prolonged, difficult or emotional conversation.
    • E-mail should be used for important, instructive and/or educational information.
    • Chat applications are ideal for communication on-the-go, shared messages, news, informal messages and team communication.
    • Video calls (via Zoom, Teams, etc.) should be used for long conversations where a lot of feedback is provided and for official group meetings.

By getting to know your employees better, you will be able to find the most effective methods of conveying information, formulating feedback in the right way and unlocking your team’s potential.