There’s been some debate about generational traits because we don’t want to stereotype or overgeneralize people. There are a few trends, though, that can be found throughout the population of each generation group in the U.S. When you were born affects how you grew up, which in turn affects your personality traits and perspective.
But how do these personality differences between generations affect your workplace and your safety environment? An employee’s personality determines how they will react in situations and what kinds of approaches to training and managing are most effective for them. By understanding these generational characteristics, you can understand how best to approach safety training in your company.
Baby boomers are likely the oldest generation of employees that you have in your workplace. Born roughly 1946–1964, baby boomers increased America’s population after WWII (source).
They tend to have strong interpersonal skills because they grew up writing letters and making phone calls, unlike today’s younger generations who grew up with more widespread modern technology. Don’t confuse them with their predecessors, though—they have a solid understanding of technology. These are the folks who were working adults as the internet and cellular devices took hold around the world.
With great interpersonal skills comes the awesome opportunity to really connect with your team face to face. Baby boomers will appreciate your presence on the work floor or out in the field throughout the day for mentoring, coaching, and feedback. Being able to connect directly with leadership will help them to succeed and feel confident in their roles and their abilities on the job. Practical safety training for your baby boomers should include hands-on learning and face-to-face contact.
Those born around 1965–1980 comprise Generation X (source). They were the generation of MTV and punk rock, but they were also subject to some societal changes that impacted them. Many parents—both moms and dads—began careers, leaving Gen Xers primarily with babysitters.
Dubbed the latch-key kids, Generation X value a healthy work-life balance. Since having two working parents was a relatively new mainstream concept, attitudes had to shift. Today’s Gen Xers appreciate a healthy balance between work and home life because of the situations they faced as kids.
Don’t make your employees feel overworked because of training. It shouldn’t be an extra requirement at the end of the day or week, so you need to take that into consideration. A great way to address this is to integrate your safety training into daily work life. Whether your training is daily, weekly, or monthly, you can develop a routine that includes safety training topics when it’s most relevant and effective.
Oh, the things we hear about millennials (check out this free ebook on safety training for millennials!). They have been referred to as “Generation Me,” which generally holds a negative connotation. However, Generation Me could be a great way to describe the independence and perseverance of millennials as well. Rather than viewing them as entitled, we could say they’re driven.
As an employer, you want your employees to be driven and determined on the job. Use that to your advantage. Using newer technologies with these digital natives will help to engage your employees and give them the tools to advance their knowledge at the same time. Creating a safety training program that is meaningful and efficient will go a long way with them.
As a manager or safety leader, managing a multigenerational workforce can be an intimidating task, but personality differences between generations can be an asset that you don’t want to overlook. Take the time to understand what your employees want and need from you, and your safety program will be more effective than ever!