For the first time in American history, four distinct generations are present in the professional sphere, a phenomenon that creates occasional friction as unique communication styles, values, goals, and work habits collide.
Some of the Silent Generation (born mid-1920s to early-1940s) are still contributing to the workforce in leadership and mentorship roles, working well beyond typical retirement age. Baby Boomers (mid-1940s to early-1960s) represent a sizeable portion of the workforce and hold many of the executive and management-level positions, while members of Generation X (mid-1960s to early-1980s) are also established in their careers and moving up the corporate ladder. Millennials (mid-1980s to late-1990s) are the newcomers to the job market as they graduate and start to pursue careers.
This four-generation workplace will likely become the new norm in the U.S., as the first of the iGeneration (born late-1990s to present) approach college age and begin to choose career paths.
The idea of a multi-generational workforce is not a new one, but as technology continues to advance and increase in the workplace, the gap between generations can be thrown into sharp relief.
As the first generation to grow up using the internet, Millennials tend to adopt new technology more easily than some of their professional counterparts. Millennials gravitate toward the same technology in the workplace that they use in their day-to-day routines, such as instant messaging and cloud computing, while Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers might be more accustomed to phone calls, traditional emails, and hard-copy record keeping in the workplace. T
he key to success in these diverse workforces is to balance the needs and preferences of the various groups, while integrating technology in a way that benefits everyone.
The multi-generational workforce plays a vital role in many industries and, as retired Police Chief Rich Hendricks explains, it is especially important within the field of law enforcement. Hendricks served as Chief of Police in Logan, Utah, for 12 of his 30 years on the force and gained considerable firsthand knowledge of the benefits of a multi-generational police force.
“The goal in recruiting and hiring should be for the population within your department to mirror the population of your community. You are obviously going to have multi-generational members in your community requiring the police product, so diversity in your department is always a positive thing,” Hendricks said.
The multi-generational nature of public safety can create challenges when implementing new technology. Modern law enforcement is built upon traditions that should be upheld and respected. However, the technological evolution of society requires that law enforcement agencies also adapt. Smooth integration is vital in the public safety sector, where there is zero margin for error and little room for experimental or unproven products.