An Inside Look At How Gen Y, Gen X And Baby Boomers View The Workplace

Lindsey LaManna

SAP multi-genertional panel discussionFostering a diverse and inclusive workplace has become a priority for many organizations in the business world today.

Why?  Because diversity drives innovation.  By maintaining a workforce of employees with varied perspectives, backgrounds and cultures, innovative ideas, products and processes come to life.

According to a Forbes Insights report, “Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce,” 85% agree that a diverse and inclusive workforce brings the different perspectives a company needs to drive innovation.


In a diverse organization, employees vary in age, work experience and generation.  As we know, every generation brings its own culture and transformations to the workplace and has different aspirations, values and ways of getting things done.

So does this make it hard for them to work together?  How do the less experienced generations like Generation Y (or Millennial Generation) fit in a workplace dominated by Generation X and Baby Boomer workers?

These were exactly the questions that SAP tackled at its Multi-Generational Panel Discussion, one of its Global Diversity Days events.  I had the pleasure of attending this eye-opening discussion, where panelists from across different generations (Generation Y, Generation X and the Baby Boomer Generation) compared experiences and shared perspectives of the workplace.  Panelists were asked a series of questions in order to uncover their differences when it comes to the work world, which I will discuss below.A comparison of the perspectives of different generations about the workplace

*Click on the image to enlarge.

Is it true that Gen Y expects constant feedback and gratification?

It is said that Generation Y desires constant feedback.  They don’t want to wait for the quarterly or yearly review, like Baby Boomers or Gen X who are more comfortable with waiting.

At the panel discussion, a Generation Y panelist completely agreed with the statement, claiming that the constant feedback that they want is not necessarily a “pat on the back,” but a way of measuring yourself.

It provides guidance and direction that allows you to improve at your job, especially in a high pace environment like IT.  Another Millennial, added that she enjoys weekly meetings with her manager to gain feedback on completed tasks, so in the future when she does it again, she can be certain that she is completing it correctly.

As a follow-up question, Gen X and Baby Boomer panelists were asked what they do as managers to make work fun for Millennials and to meet their need for constant feedback.

One Baby Boomer pointed out that every generation enjoys feedback, but that it may come from different sources.  While an early-stage career person may want feedback from their manager, a late-stage career person may gain feedback from customers or peers.

However, as a manager, it is very important to provide that feedback to any employee, regardless of the stage of their career.  Millennials may need more feedback though because they are just starting their careers and it allows them to correct themselves on a more responsive basis.

Another Baby Boomer added that he doesn’t like to wait until the end of the year to receive a performance review either.  He enjoys receiving feedback every week or bi-weekly, just to make sure that things are moving in the right direction.

He said that things change so fast and, let’s face it, we’re all not really good at communicating.  Communication is tough and work is so fast pace that providing as much feedback as often as possible is critical in helping employees be more successful.

A third Baby Boomer panelist presented a different perspective, saying that coaching is something that we do constantly.  However, he says that if you give people too much feedback too soon, you can create a situation where a person is working on things that are unnecessary.  People will learn from their mistakes.  It’s good to give coaching and tips, but for people that are very aggressive about their career, giving them feedback prematurely can be damaging.

What you should do is look for patterns and then reach out to those who are constantly doing something negative and then provide them with feedback.  Everyone else could just use some pat-on-the-backs and coaching.  You have to be careful with too much feedback because it can just as harmful as too little.

A Generation Y panelist agreed saying that structured PRM and coaching or mentoring is what enables him to succeed faster.  It’s less about feedback and more about guidance and encouragement.

How do you like to be rewarded for your hard work?

Panelists were next asked how they prefer to be rewarded, with a day off, a financial reward, or a personal note or peer-to-peer recognition.  A member of Generation X responded that while everyone loves financial compensation, he knows that money is not always a realistic reward.

As a substitute, recognition from peers and managers is really important and means a lot.  We’re all very busy and contribute to a lot of different projects, so we don’t always take the time to recognize others.  When people do take the time, the recognition and gratitude is very meaningful and appreciated.

A Millenial panelist added that these are especially important when you spend your time helping other teams with work that is not related to your core responsibilities.  All generations seemed to agree with that personal notes are the cheapest, but also one of the most valuable rewards.  What makes them even more prized, is that they can be presented to managers as a demonstration of their hard work for quarterly or year-end reviews.

To continue, a Baby Boomer panelist explained that every reward is appropriate at certain times, but it doesn’t cost anything to say something nice.  With employees, it’s like a bank account.  You can’t start withdrawing until you deposit.  You have to let them know that they have great traits about them before you can start pointing out the things that they need to improve upon.

What do you look for in a company?

Panelists were next asked to describe what initially attracted them to their employer – the work life balance it promotes, its culture, the pay, its fitness facilities, the free lunch?  A member of Gen X claimed that it was the flexibility to move around to find new challenging work that drew him in.

To early-stage career persons, change is important.  We want to make sure that we’re not doing the same repetitious activities over and over again and that we’re always being challenged. Constant challenge helps you grow as an employee and helps your company grow as a whole.

Another panelist claimed that as a Millennial, he was more attracted to the company’s mission, purpose and sustainability practices.  The company has a powerful purpose and is not driven by just making sales, but its desire to change the world – that’s what means the most for Millennials.  It’s about being a part of something bigger than just corporate America.

For Baby Boomers, a company’s culture is key.  It really matters who your company’s leaders are and how the company treats their employees.  On the other side, having new, challenging work is another important quality that Baby Boomers look for in a company.

How long should you stay before switching to another role?

The next question was “How long do you think you should stay in your current role before switching to a new one?”  There’s an HR rule that you’re supposed to wait a year until you can really master your current role and then move on to the next challenging opportunity.

One Baby Boomer claimed that she has adopted a three year rule when it comes to changing positions.  The first year is spent learning the new role, the second year is spent excelling at it and then third year is looking at what’s next.  Another added that there’s one more aspect you’ve got to consider – who you are and what’s important to you.

If the role is not a good fit, then it’s not doing you or the company any good if you’re not happy and not producing.  Understand what your strengths are and what you like to do and if you’re not in a role that matches that, then find something new, no matter how much time you’ve spent.

From a Millennial’s point of view, time spent in a role is dependent on whether or not you’re being continuously challenged and presented with new opportunities.  When you feel that you’re talents are no longer being fully utilized, it’s time to consider other positions.

On the other hand, one Baby Boomer panelist cautioned people from leaving their role prematurely because you may miss out on a golden learning opportunity because you weren’t patient.  When you’re done with a role, you’ll know and you’ll be an expert.  But don’t rush it; get the experience because that experience will get you to where you want to be.

Is Generation less loyal to their employer?

Panelists also tackled the perception that Generation Y is less committed to their employer than other generations and the question of what has changed to make them that way.  Is it just a generational difference, is it the way Gen Y was raised, or is it an overall corporate culture change that has made company loyalty less important?

One Baby Boomer said that they used to call people that jump between companies and roles as “movers and shakers.”  He remembers that, while such risk takers were the minority back then, they actually did really well for themselves.

Now, he feels that moving around is the norm, especially for Generation Y who is trained to be “movers and shakers.”  However, there’s nothing wrong with changing roles and companies until you find a career that you’re good at and that you love to do – it’s actually good for the company.

Another Baby Boomer reminded the audience that when you move to a different company, you have to reestablish your network and your personal brand and that takes a lot of energy and effort.

There are many opportunities to move within a company to discover different, more challenging jobs.  By staying with one company and moving horizontally, you get a lot of valuable experience that you wouldn’t get by constantly switching companies.

Is your generation stereotyped?

The panel finished with the question, “Do you feel that your generation is stereotyped at your company and in the business world?”  One Baby Boomer remembers at his first job calling the older programmers “the old dinosaurs.”  However, he doesn’t see that being a problem today and enjoys the diversity at his company.

A member of Gen X claimed that Generation X and Y both experience the stereotype of “not wanting to pay their dues.”  He claims that this is a misunderstanding that comes from those generations’ desire to be challenged – not from a refusal to start from the bottom.

Often times the tasks that they are being asked to do upon entering a company are not really meeting their need for challenging work.  For the early stage career generations, as long as they are being challenged and engaged, they will stay. If they are not, they will leave to go to another company or reinvest in education.

I am interested in learning your perspectives on the discussion above.  Would you answer any of the questions differently for your generation?

Managing a multi-generational workplace can be difficult. Learn how to optimize for success and prepare for employees of all ages at the Future of Work Forum in Orlando on June 3. Click here for more information and to register


About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is a Marketing Manager at SAP. Her specialties include social media marketing, marketing strategy, and marketing communications.

Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain

Hans Thalbauer

Numerous sectors are experimenting with 3D printing, which has the potential to disrupt many markets. One that’s already making progress is the food industry.

The U.S. Army hopes to use 3D printers to customize food for each soldier. NASA is exploring 3D printing of food in space. The technology could eventually even end hunger around the world.

What does that have to do with your supply chain? Quite a bit — because 3D printing does more than just revolutionize the production process. It also requires a complete realignment of the supply chain.

And the way 3D printing transforms the supply chain holds lessons for how organizations must reinvent themselves in the new era of the extended supply chain.

Supply chain spaghetti junction

The extended supply chain replaces the old linear chain with not just a network, but a network of networks. The need for this network of networks is being driven by four key factors: individualized products, the sharing economy, resource scarcity, and customer-centricity.

To understand these forces, imagine you operate a large restaurant chain, and you’re struggling to differentiate yourself against tough competition. You’ve decided you can stand out by delivering customized entrees. In fact, you’re going to leverage 3D printing to offer personalized pasta.

With 3D printing technology, you can make one-off pasta dishes on the fly. You can give customers a choice of ingredients (gluten-free!), flavors (salted caramel!), and shapes (Leaning Towers of Pisa!). You can offer the personalized pasta in your restaurants, in supermarkets, and on your ecommerce website.

You may think this initiative simply requires you to transform production. But that’s just the beginning. You also need to re-architect research and development, demand signals, asset management, logistics, partner management, and more.

First, you need to develop the matrix of ingredients, flavors, and shapes you’ll offer. As part of that effort, you’ll have to consider health and safety regulations.

Then, you need to shift some of your manufacturing directly into your kitchens. That will also affect packaging requirements. Logistics will change as well, because instead of full truckloads, you’ll be delivering more frequently, with more variety, and in smaller quantities.

Next, you need to perfect demand signals to anticipate which pasta variations in which quantities will come through which channels. You need to manage supply signals source more kinds of raw materials in closer to real time.

Last, the source of your signals will change. Some will continue to come from point of sale. But others, such as supplies replenishment and asset maintenance, can come direct from your 3D printers.

Four key ingredients of the extended supply chain

As with our pasta scenario, the drivers of the extended supply chain require transformation across business models and business processes. First, growing demand for individualized products calls for the same shifts in R&D, asset management, logistics, and more that 3D printed pasta requires.

Second, as with the personalized entrees, the sharing economy integrates a network of partners, from suppliers to equipment makers to outsourced manufacturing, all electronically and transparently interconnected, in real time and all the time.

Third, resource scarcity involves pressures not just on raw materials but also on full-time and contingent labor, with the necessary skills and flexibility to support new business models and processes.

And finally, for personalized pasta sellers and for your own business, it all comes down to customer-centricity. To compete in today’s business environment and to meet current and future customer expectations, all your operations must increasingly revolve around rapidly comprehending and responding to customer demand.

Want to learn more? Check out my recent video on digitalizing the extended supply chain.


Hans Thalbauer

About Hans Thalbauer

Hans Thalbauer is the Senior Vice President, Extended Supply Chain, at SAP. He is responsible for the strategic direction and the Go-To-Market of solutions for Supply Chain, Logistics, Engineering/R&D, Manufacturing, Asset Management and Sustainability at SAP.

How to Design a Flexible, Connected Workspace 

John Hack, Sam Yen, and Elana Varon

SAP_Digital_Workplace_BRIEF_image2400x1600_2The process of designing a new product starts with a question: what problem is the product supposed to solve? To get the right answer, designers prototype more than one solution and refine their ideas based on feedback.

Similarly, the spaces where people work and the tools they use are shaped by the tasks they have to accomplish to execute the business strategy. But when the business strategy and employees’ jobs change, the traditional workspace, with fixed walls and furniture, isn’t so easy to adapt. Companies today, under pressure to innovate quickly and create digital business models, need to develop a more flexible work environment, one in which office employees have the ability to choose how they work.

SAP_Digital_Emotion_BRIEF_image175pxWithin an office building, flexibility may constitute a variety of public and private spaces, geared for collaboration or concentration, explains Amanda Schneider, a consultant and workplace trends blogger. Or, she adds, companies may opt for customizable spaces, with moveable furniture, walls, and lighting that can be adjusted to suit the person using an unassigned desk for the day.

Flexibility may also encompass the amount of physical space the company maintains. Business leaders want to be able to set up operations quickly in new markets or in places where they can attract top talent, without investing heavily in real estate, says Sande Golgart, senior vice president of corporate accounts with Regus.

Thinking about the workspace like a designer elevates decisions about the office environment to a strategic level, Golgart says. “Real estate is beginning to be an integral part of the strategy, whether that strategy is for collaborating and innovating, driving efficiencies, attracting talent, maintaining higher levels of productivity, or just giving people more amenities to create a better, cohesive workplace,” he says. “You will see companies start to distance themselves from their competition because they figured out the role that real estate needs to play within the business strategy.”

The SAP Center for Business Insight program supports the discovery and development of  new research-­based thinking to address the challenges of business and technology executives.


Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.


What Gen Z’s Arrival In The Workforce Means For Recruiters

Meghan M. Biro

Generation Z’s arrival in the workforce means some changes are on the horizon for recruiters. This cohort, born roughly from the mid-90s to approximately 2010, will be entering the workforce in four Hiring Generation Z words in 3d letters on an organization chart to illustrate finding young employees for your company or businessshort years, and you can bet recruiters and employers are already paying close attention to them.

This past fall, the first group of Gen Z youth began entering university. As Boomers continue to work well past traditional retirement age, four or five years from now, we’ll have an American workplace comprised of five generations.

Marketers and researchers have been obsessed with Millennials for over a decade; they are the most studied generation in history, and at 80 million strong they are an economic force to be reckoned with. HR pros have also been focused on all things related to attracting, motivating, mentoring, and retaining Millennials and now, once Gen Z is part of the workforce, recruiters will have to shift gears and also learn to work with this new, lesser-known generation. What are the important points they’ll need to know?

Northeastern University led the way with an extensive survey on Gen Z in late 2014 that included 16- through 19-year-olds and shed some light on key traits. Here are a few points from that study that recruiters should pay special attention to:

  • In general, the Generation Z cohort tends to be comprised of self-starters who have a strong desire to be autonomous. 63% of them report that they want colleges to teach them about being an entrepreneur.
  • 42% expect to be self-employed later in life, and this percentage was higher among minorities.
  • Despite the high cost of higher education, 81% of Generation Z members surveyed believe going to college is extremely important.
  • Generation Z has a lot of anxiety around debt, not only student loan debt, and they report they are very interested in being well-educated about finances.
  • Interpersonal interaction is highly important to Gen Z; just as Millennials before them, communicating via technology, including social media, is far less valuable to them than face-to-face communication.

Of course Gen Z is still very young, and their opinions as they relate to future employment may well change. For example, reality is that only 6.6% of the American workforce is self-employed, making it likely that only a small percentage of those expecting to be self-employed will be as well. The future in that respect is uncertain, and this group has a lot of learning to do and experiences yet ahead of them. However, when it comes to recruiting them, here are some things that might be helpful.

Generation Z is constantly connected

Like Millennials, Gen Z is a cohort of digital natives; they have had technology and the many forms of communication that affords since birth. They are used to instant access to information and, like their older Gen Y counterparts, they are continually processing information. Like Millennials, they prefer to solve their own problems, and will turn to YouTube or other video platforms for tutorials and to troubleshoot before asking for help. They also place great value on the reviews of their peers.

For recruiters, that means being ready to communicate on a wide variety of platforms on a continual basis. In order to recruit the top talent, you will have to be as connected as they are. You’ll need to keep up with their preferred networks, which will likely always be changing, and you’ll need to be transparent about what you want, as this generation is just as skeptical of marketing as the previous one.

Flexible schedules will continue to grow in importance

With the growth of part-time and contract workers, Gen Z will more than likely assume the same attitude their Millennial predecessors did when it comes to career expectations; they will not expect to remain with the same company for more than a few years. Flexible schedules will be a big part of their world as they move farther away from the traditional 9-to-5 job structure as work becomes more about life and less about work, and they’ll likely take on a variety of part time roles.

This preference for flexible work schedules means that business will happen outside of traditional work hours, and recruiters’ own work hours will, therefore, have to be just as flexible as their Gen Z targets’ schedule are. Companies will also have to examine what are in many cases decades old policies on acceptable work hours and business norms as they seek to not only attract, but to hire and retain this workforce with wholly different preferences than the ones that came before them. In many instances this is already happening, but I believe we will see this continue to evolve in the coming years.

Echoing the silent generation

Unlike Millennials, Gen Z came of age during difficult economic times; older Millennials were raised in the boom years. As Alex Williams points out in his recent New York Times piece, there’s an argument to be made that Generation Z is similar in attitude to the Silent Generation, growing up in a time of recession means they are more pragmatic and skeptical than their slightly older peers.

So how will this impact their behavior and desires as job candidates? Most of them are the product of Gen X parents, and stability will likely be very important to them. They may be both hard-working and fiscally savvy.

Sparks & Honey, in their much quoted slideshare on Gen Z, puts the number of high-schooler students who felt pressured by their parents to get jobs at 55 percent. Income and earning your keep are likely to be a big motivation for GenZ. Due to the recession, they also share the experience of living in multi-generational households, which may help considerably as they navigate a workplace comprised of several generations.

We don’t have all the answers

With its youngest members not yet in double digits, Gen Z is still maturing. There is obviously still a lot that we don’t know. This generation may have the opposite experience from the Millennials before them, where the older members experienced the booming economy, with some even getting a career foothold, before the collapse in 2008. Gen Z’s younger members may get to see a resurgent economy as they make their way out of college. Those younger members are still forming their personalities and views of the world; we would be presumptuous to think we have all of the answers already.

Generational analysis is part research, but also part theory testing. What we do know is that this second generation of digital natives, with its adaption of technology and comfort with the fast-paced changing world, will leave its mark on the American workforce as it makes its way in. As a result, everything about HR will change, in a big way. I wrote a post for my Forbes column recently where I said, “To recruit in this environment is like being part wizard, part astronaut, part diplomat, part guidance counselor,” and that’s very true.

As someone who loves change, I believe there has never been a more exciting time to be immersed in both the HR and the technology space. How do you feel about what’s on the horizon as it relates to the future of work and the impending arrival of Generation Z? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Social tools are playing an increasingly important role in the workplace, especially for younger workers. Learn more: Adopting Social Software For Workforce Collaboration [Video].

The post What Gen Z’s Arrival In The Workforce Means For Recruiters appeared first on TalentCulture.

Image: Bigstock


How To Find The Talent You Need To Solve Challenges That Don’t Exist Yet

Mike Ettling

Although executives, analysts, and experts regularly try to predict where business is headed, the pace of innovation continues to exceed our expectations and imagination – especially when it comes to the world of work. Not only is technology impacting how we work and interact with each other, it’s transforming what we actually do for work.People walking on office concourse --- Image by © Igor E./Image Source/Corbis

Consider this: 2 billion jobs that exist today will disappear by 2030, according to futurist Thomas Frey. 2 billion. That’s roughly 50% of all of jobs worldwide. Cathy N. Davidson, Duke University professor, backed up this prediction in her book Now You See It, noting that 65% of children entering grade school this year will assume careers that don’t yet exist.

How can you possibly plan for a future workforce in jobs we can’t today know? And how can we develop talent when we don’t what our business will need not just in a few years, but even in a few months from now?

The future of talent acquisition relies on a broad footprint enabled by technology

The dynamic of workforce mix is changing. Employees no longer fit neatly into a box, nor should they. Salaried employees. Hourly employees. Contingent employees. These categories are more fluid than ever.

As digital businesses like Uber and Airbnb have shown, the understanding of “employee” is being redefined to include people who are not employed in the traditional sense or necessarily found on the company payroll. Rather, they are customers – on the other side of the seller-buyer relationship.

This new approach does not come without risk. Once the salary-wage relationship is removed from the employer-employee equation, the degree of employee loyalty and affinity seen in the past will slowly deteriorate. This forces CHROs to adjust how to relate to their existing workforce, and as important, their future employees and the people who influence them.

To create an employer brand that is more fluid and differentiated, CHROs should consider four things:

1. Your employer brand matters whether you’re actively recruiting or not.

Your employer brand needs to be an interaction that happens consistently – whether or not you are looking for new talent to join your team at the moment. And while the brand is not the sole purview of HR, HR is in the best position to shepherd it.

2. Expand your footprint to attract the best – before they’re even in the workforce.

In our age of social media, people follow brands they admire. But here’s a secret: This also brings an opportunity for following high-performing professionals within or outside the industry as well as students of all ages who are mastering valuable skills.

As I look at my two school-aged boys, I see firsthand how their new generation – Gen Z – will create their own definition of work and career fulfillment. Pretty soon, new graduates will be less concerned about job titles and more interested in working for companies with whom they feel an affinity. And increasingly, these interactions begin long before a job search.

3. Master the science of data – no PhD required.

How many of us groan when terms like “data science” and “number crunching” get mentioned? Today’s technology is taking away the fear factor; analysing data is becoming more intuitive and delivering more valuable insights. And increasingly, the machines are doing it for us, melting processes along the way.

4. Engage before Day 1.

HR today has the tools to become less about process and more about employee engagement. Onboarding is a perfect example of how, and why it matters.

Typically, onboarding has been about providing the physical things a new employee needs to start working: security badge, laptop, desk assignment, setup of a 401k account, and payroll deductions to name a just a few. None of this generally happens until the person walks through the door on Day 1.

Now we have the ability to make onboarding a social interaction, allowing a new employee the opportunity to be engaged before they even start. HR can provide the ability for new employees to connect with their manager, along with peers who can help them better understand and navigate the organisation, and potential mentors who can help them become successful – reducing the traditional ramp up process that can take months or longer.

In today’s digital economy, it’s less about the job and more about the talent. How are you preparing?

Want more future-focuses strategies that empower your workforce? See 6 Habits Of Mind That Will Impact The Future Of Work.


Mike Ettling

About Mike Ettling

Mike Ettling is the President of SAP SuccessFactors. He is an inspirational, visionary and highly dynamic leader with a wealth of leadership expertise, genuine business acumen, and an exemplary record driving multi-million dollar sales, marketing initiatives and transformation in a global context.