Category: Certificates

Generational Differences in the Workplace

Open office with workstations and employees working

Complaining about younger generations has been popular for thousands of years. In the fifth century BC, Socrates famously griped about children loving luxury, having bad manners and showing contempt for authority.

Generational friction often shows up in the workplace, and many people are aware of the stereotypes: Baby Boomers complain about millennials’ lack of professionalism. Millennials criticize Gen Xers’ insistence on emailing everything. Gen Xers wish Millennials would get off their smartphones during work.

In today’s workforce, collaboration among different generations is the norm. Generational stereotypes can hinder effectiveness if left unaddressed, according to research from the behavioral and occupational assessment company Birkman. Just as gender and ethnic diversity initiatives can increase an organization’s productivity and effectiveness, preparing employees to appreciate generational differences can help workplace teams.

Several studies have found unique inclinations for generational cohorts. Here’s a guide to help navigate each generation’s preferences in six areas.

Communication Preferences

  • Millennial – Text messages and messaging apps
  • Gen Xer – Email
  • Baby Boomer – Phone calls

Open, quick communication is important to every generation. According to Nielson, 98 percent of millennials own a smartphone, but Baby Boomers and Gen Xers aren’t technologically inept. A good rule of thumb is to use the communication method preferred by the person you want to reach.

Decision Making

  • Millennial – The group decides
  • Gen Xer – The most qualified person decides with group input
  • Baby Boomer – The boss decides

Everyone wants the best outcome. Keeping that in mind can diffuse tense situations when making important decisions. The best bosses seek input from their employees, even if the decision ultimately is theirs to make. Johnson Consulting Services recommends bosses carefully manage team members’ expectations at the front end to help manage angst at the back end for people whose ideas weren’t chosen.


  • Millennial – A complete waste of time
  • Gen Xer – OK when it’s relevant
  • Baby Boomer – Best way to get information

According to an Atlassian study, $37 billion is wasted on meetings each year. The study also revealed 47 percent of employees think they were a waste of time. Conference calls and emails can be viable alternatives worth recommending to colleagues who like meetings.

Having Fun at Work

  • Millennial – Having fun at work increases productivity
  • Gen Xer – Work to live
  • Baby Boomer – Live to work

What constitutes fun is different for each generation. Millennials grew up learning through fun activities, while Boomers think the work itself is fun. Enjoying the workplace doesn’t have to be frivolous, according to Forbes. If incorporated strategically, fun can have a positive impact on the bottom line. Encouraging group lunches or hosting a happy hour can give all generations an opportunity to let loose while building relationships with co-workers, which boosts productivity and engagement.


  • Millennial – Instant
  • Gen Xer – Timely
  • Baby Boomer – Annual review

Feedback is important to employees of all generations. It’s the timing and frequency which differ. Giving employees feedback in a way they prefer increases employee engagement and loyalty.

Dress Codes

  • Millennial – Casual
  • Gen Xer – Business casual with casual Fridays
  • Baby Boomer – Business professional every day

Each generation has been more casual than the one before. An OfficeTeam survey found 50 percent of senior managers said employees dress less formally than they did five years ago, regardless of generation. Company policy and the industry in which it operates often determine what is appropriate and what is not. Bosses can still set minimum acceptable standards, and employees should pay attention to organizational norms.

The Birkman study concludes that managing and engaging three unique generations in the workforce is more than just a trendy topic of discussion. Generational issues have a tangible impact on the success of teams and their organizations. Businesses with functional, multigenerational workforces will have a strategic advantage in the marketplace.

Soft skills training can also help smooth generational issues in the workplace. The UCO Customized Education Workforce Advantage Certificate addresses generational differences and gives employees the keys to personal branding, relationship building and reputation management.

Karen Youngblood is the executive director of UCO Customized Education.

9 Ways to Increase Employee Productivity

Disengaged employee checking his phone at work.


Disengaged employees are unproductive employees. From entry-level positions to top executives, a lack of connection to the organization and its mission can mean a loss of profits.

In fact, a recent study from McClean and Co. estimates a disengaged employee costs an organization roughly $3,400 for every $10,000 in salary. A Gallup study found disengaged employees cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year.

Here are 9 ways to improve productivity in the workplace.

  1. Refine the onboarding process. Give new hires the help and support they need starting day one. It doesn’t have to be a long process, but simple things like giving them a managerial mentor can decrease stress and start their productivity off on the right foot.
  2. Create a unique culture and environment. The workplace should be inviting, but that means something different for every organization. Adding artwork and branded dishes to the breakroom or sharing employee playlists on social media can make a big difference in an organization’s atmosphere.
  3. Cross-train departments. When employees know how hard other areas of the organization work to meet mutual goals, it encourages them to keep up their end of the bargain.
  4. Simplify goals and duties. Decrease confusion and time lost trying to navigate complicated processes or shifting priorities.
  5. Promote health and wellness. Provide gym membership discounts or ask your team to join you for a walk during lunch. Healthy employees are productive employees.
  6. Hold standing meetings to improve group performance. A Washington University study suggests decreased territoriality sparks a team’s creativity and enthusiasm. It also provides accountability.
  7. Encourage internal and external networking. Employees should be connected through professional social sites like LinkedIn, but companies should also encourage employees to attend trade shows and conferences to meet their peers and share ideas.
  8. Provide continuing education opportunities. Showing employees you want to help them advance professionally is crucial. Paying for classes or giving them time off to attend a workshop lets employees know their success is important and makes them willing to go the extra mile to show their gratitude.
  9. Have some fun! Nothing builds comradery faster than putting people together to have a good time. Holding contests or ordering in pizza for lunch on a random Tuesday can go a long way toward endearing employees toward your organization.

Boosting employee engagement and productivity must be a company-wide initiative supported by management. Changes won’t happen overnight, but the payoff will be well worth the efforts.

UCO’s Workforce Advantage Certificate teaches specific strategies to increase employee engagement and productivity. To register for our next class, click here.

Karen Youngblood is the executive director of UCO Customized Education.