The past year brought dramatic changes to our lives, our work, and our businesses.
It also accelerated trends toward remote work and hybrid office models, and forced employees and employers alike to rethink company culture, work-life balance, and what it means to collaborate in new work environments with new sets of tools.
The turbulence of the past year also brought the human side of our workforce into sharp relief. We saw glimpses into the lives of our coworkers and revealed more about ourselves than ever before, either by accident or out of necessity. We struggled to maintain our composure as children, pets, and ironing boards made guest appearances in our video calls.
We saw each other’s vulnerabilities and strengths in new ways, and in the many tiles stacked on our screens, we recognized that our workforce is a mosaic of human experiences, needs, and hopes. We also learned that our people are resilient and adaptable when given the tools, space, and flexibility to be people first, and employees second.
In order to build workflows and processes that work for people, we need to have a better understanding of who our people are and what our people need.
This article is all about people. While the workforce mosaic is infinitely complex and impossible to address in its entirety, we want to begin by looking at our workforce through one helpful and important lens: the different generations who make up our teams.
The US workforce is composed of 5 generations: the Silent Generation, Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z. As of 2017, Millennials make up the largest share of the workforce, followed by their Gen X counterparts and Boomers. The oldest of Gen Z are at the beginning of their careers, and the youngest of this generation will finish high school in the year 2030.
The Silent Generation makes up the smallest percentage of the workforce, and even the youngest members of this generation are now near or past conventional retirement age. Given their small size and expected proximity to retirement, this article focuses on subsequent generations, as they are most likely to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and future workforce trends.
For each generation, we will look at the most common characteristics, as well as what we know about how they have fared during the pandemic.