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Communication Style & Rewards Mark Workplace Generational Differences

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August 27, 2009

Communication style and monetary awards can be the source of major differences in attitude among generations in the workplace, a recent international survey has revealed.

The survey, by global workforce management firm, Kelly Services, finds that Gen Y is increasingly using instant messaging, yet all age groups overwhelmingly prefer face-to-face communication. In regard to rewards and bonuses, older workers prefer non-cash items such as time off work and training opportunities. Gen Y prefers the cold, hard cash.

The findings are part of the Kelly Global Workforce Index, which collected the views of approximately 100,000 people in 34 countries covering North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.

Results also show 42 percent of respondents say differences between Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomers actually improve workplace productivity, while 24 percent say they interfere with productivity and 23 percent say they make no difference.

More than a third (42 percent) of respondents said they have experienced intergenerational conflict in the workplace.

Other key findings in the survey are:

•    Baby Boomers are the most tolerant of generational differences and the most positive about the productivity benefits.
•    Gen X is more likely to have experienced intergenerational conflict than either Gen Y or Baby Boomers.
•    Gen Y is more likely to go out of their way to adapt their communication style in dealing with colleagues from a different generation.

“Often what can appear a source of friction between the generations can also be a source of creativity and growth when it is harnessed and cultivated,” said George Corona, Kelly Services executive vice president and chief operating officer.

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