Five generations at work: Design for collaboration


As the economy improves, the competition for the most creative workers (the ones that everybody wants) will become more demanding than ever. These innovative knowledge workers will span five generations and their participation at work will determine the fates of whole companies – and whole industries!

Regardless of what is happening in the rest of the job market, these workers will always have attractive options before them.  The question is … will you be ready to do what it takes to attract and retain them?

Planning space for five generations at work

To attract and retain game-changing talent, you must move beyond conventional assumptions about the design, look, and feel of your workplace and focus on the culture or sociology that exists in it.

For most of our history, workplace designers have assumed that all or most of organizations employees are essentially identical.  Designing a working space for one person in a given department meant designing the workspace for the entire department.

The organization dedicated to embracing the range of generations at work takes a different approach:  one of tailoring the workplace to the needs and demographics of every knowledge worker.

If the idea of matching tools and workspaces to individual employee needs sounds troublesome, expensive, or time-consuming to you, you are certainly not alone.  Yet, before you opt to make the same decisions (and get the same results) that most organizations do when addressing these questions, consider that your workforce is anything but cookie-cutter.

Better results come from better understanding

All of us, regardless of our age, will have a remarkable, and unprecedented, “cross-pollination” opportunity to interact with what’s soon to be FIVE working generations at the same time, each with its own distinctive language, having unique needs and work styles.

The five generations in your workplace include: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millenials, and Generation 2020.

Treating these five groups as identical as you plan or upgrade your organization’s workspaces is a major strategic mistake, one that can cost you and your enterprise dearly in terms of employee attraction, retention, productivity and competitive advantage.

In upcoming posts, we’ll explore the differences and values that help define each generation, and how they affect every facet of our business.

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Posted in: Generations, Workplace Design.

2 Responses to Five generations at work: Design for collaboration

  1. Brandon Toropov says:

    Excellent points!

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