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Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z: why you need all three in the workplace

Each generation has its own typical characteristics, and these can also be perceived in the workplace. For example, a generation X employee will have a different work mentality and will attach importance to different values than a recently graduated Gen Z’er. At first glance, this may seem challenging for a smooth cooperation, but these differences actually contribute to a complementary and balanced team. As an employer, how do you ensure that all generations work together optimally?    

Gitte Peeraer, Talent Acquisition & Learning Specialist at Robert Walters, explains the characteristics of each generation, why a mix is beneficial and how employers can encourage cooperation between them. 

Generation X: efficient coaches

"As the baby boomers reach retirement age, Gen X'ers (born between 1965 and 1980) are gradually becoming the most experienced employees in the workplace," says Gitte. "Just like the baby boomers, they are loyal, optimistic and driven. They like to take on the role of coach in order to share their extensive knowledge with younger employees. This no-nonsense generation is strongly focused on efficiency and tackles matters with a down-to-earth, businesslike attitude." 

Generation Y or millenials: flexible teamplayers

Gitte: "This generation (born between 1981 and 1995) has put work-life balance, flexible working and - since the corona pandemic - hybrid working on the map. With their great sense of responsibility, millennials strive for a strong bond of trust with their employer. Mutual flexibility is therefore of paramount importance to them. Authenticity is also essential to Generation Y, and these professionals are keen to quickly bring added value to the organisation. Furthermore, millennials are real team players and pay attention to the good atmosphere at the office." 

Generation Z: creative multi-taskers

"With this generation (born between 1996 and 2010), the first 'digital natives' - born into the digital age - are joining the workplace. They know current technologies like the back of their hand, switch effortlessly from one channel to another and are strong in quickly filtering relevant information. In other words: excellent multitaskers," explains Gitte. "Gen Z'ers, also known as 'Zoomers', have a creative attitude: they like to be given the freedom to do things their way, always with an eye to innovation.”

"Also very characteristic of this generation is their strong sense of sustainability," Gitte continues. "More so than previous generations, they are very committed to sustainable business and expect their employer to take the necessary initiatives in this respect. This attitude is also reflected in their behaviour in the office, which has a positive effect on the employees of previous generations, who may not have been as environmentally aware before."

The perfect mix

Gitte: "In the workplace, each generation has a distinct added value, and organisations should take into account the values and norms that typify each generation." With a healthy mix of ages, these strengths will work in a complementary way and be felt in all crucial aspects of the business.  

"By bringing different generations together in the office, employers create a corporate culture where knowledge and know-how are passed on efficiently, and in both directions," Gitte notes. "For example, older generations can share their experience while falling back on the digital know-how of younger colleagues."

"As an employer, it is therefore important to offer a working environment in which everyone wants to work together towards a clearly defined goal, which furthermore every employee supports. However, this way of working requires flexibility. After all, each generation has its own style of work. The organisation must have the courage to offer that freedom. Offering the possibility of hybrid work is a wonderful example of this," concludes Gitte.   


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