The 4G Workplace: 4 generations at once

The 4G Workplace: 4 generations at once

At the moment something new is happening… For the first time in history there are four generations on the job market. This means that 4 generations are working in the workplace at the same time, it’s also called the “multi-generational workplace”. This multi-generational workplace is a result of a higher life expectancy and a higher retirement age. This is a very unique and new situation to be in, with new challenges. And for us as Facility Managers, a whole new dimension to the workplace. In this blog we will we give you some tips and tricks on how we can adjust our Workplace to these 4 generations. Are you ready?


Before we zoom in, let me short summarize the generations for you J:

  • Baby Boomers—born 1946 to 1964
  • Generation X—born 1965 to 1980
  • Millennials / Generation Y—born 1981 to 2000
  • Generation Z—born 2001 to 2020


Generation Y and Z are the biggest generations: together they cover over 50% of the worldwide population. As Generation Z is only entering the workplace now, Generation Y is the biggest generation in the workplace today. Millennials are taking over!


But why is this a unique situation?

Between the different generations there appears to be a gap. A generation gap means when two members of different generations have other values, expectations, different communication styles, perspectives etc. Each generation is motivated by different incentives. As a result, there are many different expectations in terms of work and the workplace. Let me give you an example on this. Lately I had a meeting with multiple generations and that was where I really saw the differences. Where the oldest generations really enjoyed having face-to-face meetings and discussing in group, the new generation were distracted in a second. During the meeting they also updated their mailbox and checked their Social Media. This doesn’t mean that there is a right or wrong, this simply means that they have a different way of working. Their way of working is a result of their upbringing, but we’ll save that for another blog 😉


What does this mean for you as a facility manager?

As a Facility Manager, it is your role to create a workplace that fits the needs of all four generations. It is a challenging task, but if you do it right it is extremely valuable for the organization as it increases overall happiness and productivity. In the rest of this blog, we will share a few tips on how to organize the workplace and what to do to keep your employees satisfied. Ultimately, you want to keep employees engaged and connected to the organization.


1. Understanding your workforce

First of all, it is very important that you understand the construct of the employees in your organization, including their backgrounds. Understand the unique features of each generation to understand the behavior and how this differs across the generations. If you get to that level of understanding, you also get to know their expectations and perspectives when it comes to the workplace. This allows you to respond with the right facility services and keep them satisfied and fulfilled. Do your due diligence and read about generational difference but even more important, make sure to constantly communicate with your building users. For us as Facility Managers, constantly staying in touch with our end-users is always so important to make sure that we deliver the right service, in this case it is even more important.

How do we do that?

So, after reading about it, it’s time for action. Get away from that desk and get in touch with them. Have interviews, send a survey, analyze their behavior and statistics to see how you can adjust to their needs. If you manage to achieve that, it will be far more likely for employees to be happy, more motivated and more productive. And that’s what we want to achieve, right?


2. Diverse teams and individuals

As a manager you want to get the best out of your employees and see them express their competencies and qualities. Each generation has their own qualities, needs and habits. It you combine these different generations, you can create teams, call it a ‘generation mix team’. These teams make it possible for teammates to learn from each other. Besides that, it provides the opportunity for different generations to understand and respect each other more. Lindsey Pollak, millennial and multi-generation-expert compares the different generation with a remix from DJ’s. “Everyone immediately starts to dance. Older people recognize the basic melody, while younger people are attracted to the newer songs and beats mixed in.” Besides managing the teams wisely, don’t forget to recognize your employees as unique individuals as well. Each individual has their own needs, and everyone is different from each other so make sure to balance both.

3. Priority to health and well-being

Create a healthy workplace and put a well-being program in place that contributes to lowering the stress levels of employees and makes sure that they can work in an ergonomic way. A benefit of this is that the productivity of your employees increases. It speaks for itself that you want the absenteeism to be as low as possible. If you implement this correctly it gives employees incentives and knowledge to adopt a healthy behavior. It also contributes in social support. Colleagues will share experiences and tips with each other. Then the different generations are of added value, because each generation will have different experiences and tips.


4. Flexibility at the workplace and in communication

For you as a Facility Manager it is important to communicate with your employees about the workplace and questioning them. If you know the preferences of the different generations, you can offer each employee the specific workplace they wish for. You want to create a workplace that enables various ways of working and thinking. But the workplace, that makes different ways of working and thinking possible, also needs flexibility. Employees from different generations prefer a difference schedule or workplace for example. You must give them the freedom to design their own ‘workday’.

An example:

What we have seen at a certain organization is that they had a kind of test panel. This test panel consists of multiple generations and these people were able to fully design their day and workplace to their needs for a certain period of time. The insights and results of this test day were huge and gave the Facility department a lot of insights as to potential improvements. Whatever you do, use the channels that match the building user: for example: face to face, email, social media etc. In this way you provide everyone with their needs.


5. The change

Of course, managing four generations is a challenge, but it also brings varying perspectives, ideas and experiences. This all together can lead to a lot of creativity and innovation. If you succeed as an organization to respond to the generations in the right way, it gives the opportunity to differentiate on the market and recruit valuable employees who fit in the organization.


All in all, 4 generations at the workplace is challenging, but definitely a cool one if you ask us! We can share, learn and connect with each other to grow! We love the fact that as Facility Managers, we have a huge role to play in this!

About the author
Sanne always looking for improvement with her team to deliver even better services. Within The World of YES we do also a lot of research within the facility management market and we love to share this with the world to help professionals and organizations further!
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