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5 different generations in the workforce: What’s the worst that could happen?

By Kace O'Neill | |7 minute read
5 Different Generations In The Workforce What S The Worst That Could Happen

For the first time, there are five distinct generations fuelling innovation and driving success in the workplace. So, how does it work?

The differences

A recent People at Work study by ADP has revealed several distinct differences between generations that are now intertwined in the workplace for the first time. To ensure that organisations remain relevant and competitive, it’s crucial that HR leaders understand those key differences between the generations yet also make use of their commonalities.


The workplace today is an ever-changing landscape. Traditional lines have been blurred, as new technologies pave the way forward. The younger generation is accelerating towards leadership roles, oftentimes leaving their older counterparts in the dust.

From the report, one of the most telling differences between the generations was the priority ranking of their pay cheque. Younger workers especially are now looking for purpose rather than pure salary remuneration.

Gen Z is a prime example. More and more of them are striving to work for an employer that they believe in and who will also create a diverse and inclusive environment. They are also more interested in flexibility of their working hours (36 per cent) than job security (32 per cent).

On the other hand, Millennials and Gen X are a different beast. Almost seven in 10 (69 per cent) of Gen X and 63 per cent of Millennials crave a competitive salary, and just over half (52 per cent) of Gen X and 49 per cent of Millennials want job security. Baby Boomers fall somewhere in the middle; they care about having a competitive salary (62 per cent) but also want to enjoy their work (59 per cent).

The divisive subject

The standout subject where these generations collide in terms of their difference of opinion is the contentious debate around remote work. Over one in four (41 per cent) of Gen Z are dissatisfied with the flexibility of hours offered by their current employer, and 35 per cent with the flexibility of location. In contrast, Baby Boomers (57 per cent) are happy with the flexibility of hours and location offered.

Lucia Bucci, division vice-president of HR at ADP, said: “The dissatisfaction of the younger generations mustn’t be ignored by HR leaders. Far less loyal than older workers, many have gone on record saying they would consider looking for a new job if their employer ordered them to work from an office full-time.”

“Part of the reason for this is that younger generations see their personal life and work life as fully intertwined. Whilst a Baby Boomer wouldn’t dream of sharing details of their personal life to their colleagues, Gen Alpha has grown up at a time when every meal they eat is shared on the internet for all to see.”

Although division exists on certain issues, common ground is found on others. The cost-of-living crisis, for example, is often a subject that galvanises workers, as it is an issue that is affecting the majority of them across Australia. With this increased pressure on the shoulders of workers, ensuring that staff are paid correctly and timely has never been more important.

However, 31 per cent of Gen Z and 21 per cent of Millennials said they are sometimes underpaid. Furthermore, over half of Gen Z (49 per cent) and Millennials (52 per cent) said they had experienced an incorrect payment (such as a failed payment or an incorrect tax code) in the past 12 months.

This is a real issue that is happening across Australia. Large corporations such as Woolworths and CommBank have recently made headlines for incorrectly paying or flat-out underpaying staff. As employees try to combat the ramifications of the cost-of-living crisis, employers committing payroll malpractice is a detriment to all workers, no matter the generation.

How do HR leaders manage a multigenerational workplace?

To ensure the best results from a multigenerational workplace, effectively managing talent is a crucial role that HR leaders will have to assume. According to Bucci, integrating a robust human capital management (HCM) system plays a vital role in this aspect.

“Instead of merely instructing HR leaders to adopt a more personalised approach, we should empathise with their need for additional time to implement such strategies,” Bucci said.

“By equipping them with accurate data to monitor employees’ training sessions and career aspirations, as well as mapping the skills gap in the organisation, an advanced HCM system empowers HR leaders to address generational-related challenges effectively.”

This approach can foster a cohesive and thriving workforce that can feed off of those commonalties while acknowledging those differences in a way that can drive organisational success and employee satisfaction.

“By adopting this personalised and empathetic approach, HR leaders can create a more inclusive and engaged workforce, fostering collaboration and productivity among employees of different generations. With the right approach, tools, training and continuous learning, individuals from each generation can flourish at work; now and in the future,” Bucci said.



The term "workforce" or "labour force" refers to the group of people who are either employed or unemployed.

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill is a Graduate Journalist for HR Leader. Kace studied Media Communications and Maori studies at the University of Otago, he has a passion for sports and storytelling.