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Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

How can understanding and appreciating generational diversity in the education sector bring huge benefits?

For the first time in modern history, the workforce within schools spans five generations. If you add our learners into the equations, there are six generations in the education sector. Why does this matter? Surely educators are all in pursuit of one goal – to provide a positive learning experience for the young people in their care. Whilst this is true, research tells us that each generation has been influenced by some key developments and as such, each may exhibit unique personality traits and values based on their experiences. By learning about the experiences that may have shaped the preferences and habits of each generation, we can truly realise the huge benefits of a workforce rich in generational diversity. By understanding their teams, staff can provide the best working environment for colleagues and students alike.

For those of you reading who have ever tried to use your phone to call your teenage son or daughter, you may be used to the call being dropped and receiving a ‘succinct’ text in return. You might ask yourself why they don’t just answer the call? The answer may stem from their experiences. Millennials and Gen Z are used to sharing things online. They prefer faster, more direct communication with the absence of small talk and niceties that can be associated with phone calls [1].

If we transfer this to the workplace it may explain why some members of our team choose to phone and others prefer to email; and in turn why some write full, detailed emails and others are more ‘to the point’. Generational differences may also have an impact on work ethic and motivation. Individuals who fall inside the Baby Boomer generation may describe themselves as being more likely to put the workplace first and to expect to work through the ‘ranks’ to earn a promotion. Comparatively, Gen Xers may move schools more frequently to find better opportunities and earlier promotion [2]. During the pandemic we become more adept at working remotely. Those joining the workforce during this time will be very familiar with working this way and as such may place great value on the opportunity of flexible working. Entering the workforce in 2008 during the Great Recession sent many millennials job hopping as they struggled to find a solid foothold in their career. During the turmoil that the recession caused they were the first to lose their positions. This sadly gave millennials an unfair reputation for job hopping [3].

Having an understanding of generational diversity and the influence this may have on your workforce can help develop communication between staff, and promote a deeper curiosity about the strengths and preferences of our team members and colleagues. In the same breath it’s equally as important to avoid assuming that everyone within the same generation has responded the same way to their realities and experiences. This approach can lead to stereotyping and making individuals feel judged [4]. Having an understanding and valuing the differences that generational diversity may potentially have can help you lead and get the best from your team. Fostering an environment where everyone is seen to have something to teach and something to learn from each other enables us to build productive teams, complete tasks more successfully and therefore provide a more positive experience for learners.

BlueSky is pleased to launch a new module ‘Diversity: Leading and Working Cross Generationally’’. This module considers the wide range of generations within staff across any school or organisation and offers practical ways to respond to the needs of your colleagues linked to common goals. Watch the Taster and get started with this thought provoking module.

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[1]  Waldman, E. (2021). How to Manage a Multi-Generational Team. [online] Harvard Business Review [Accessed 20 Jan. 2023].

[2] Ng, E.S., Lyons, S.T. and Schweitzer, L. (2018). Generational career shifts : how matures, boomers, gen Xers, and millennials view work. United Kingdom: Emerald Publishing.

[3] Hoffower, H. (2021). Gen Z and millennials actually want the same things at work. But Gen Z has the upper hand. [online] Business Insider [Accessed 23 Jan. 2023].

[4] Half, R. (2022). 5 ways to manage generational differences in the workplace | Robert Half UK. [online] www.roberthalf.co.uk. [Accessed 20 Jan. 2023].

Tamsin Denley

Author: Ally Sousa
Content Specialist, BlueSky Learning

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