For the first time ever, five different generations are intersecting in the workplace.

In today’s modern workforce, five generations of staff are contributing to innovation and success: baby boomers, generation X, millennials, generation Z, and generation alpha. This diverse landscape contains a multitude of opportunities for employers, as well as some significant challenges.

To ensure businesses remain relevant in this technological age, it’s important to understand the differences and similarities between various generations to develop sustainable approaches to the workplace.


Purpose or pay?

In a recent study run by ADP Australia, a payroll and HR systems provider, all ages of employees were surveyed to better understand the business environment.

The report, titled People at Work 2023, found that salary is no longer the driving factor behind employment decisions for some. For younger people in particular, a sense of purpose matters more than rates of pay. Those fresh to the workforce look for diverse and inclusive office cultures run by employers they respect and admire.


Lucia Bucci, Division Vice President HR at ADP


However, while this is true for generations Z and alpha, almost seven-in-ten of Gen X and 63 percent of millennials seek a competitive salary, while just over half crave job security. According to Lucia Bucci, Division Vice President HR at ADP, this represents the crossroads between old and new.

“Gen X and Millennials grew up without much of the technology that is prevalent today. This means they communicate much differently to generation Z and are just as likely to pick up the phone to speak to a colleague as to use Slack,” she explains.

Similarly, 62 percent of Baby Boomers reported wanting a competitive salary, while 59 percent also sought fulfilment in their work.


Contrasting criteria

When analysing the areas in which the five generations disagreed the most, ADP found that remote working was a significant point of tension. While one-in-four generation Z are unhappy with flexible hours provided by employers, 57 percent of Baby Boomers are pleased with the flexibility in hours and location.

“The dissatisfaction of the younger generations mustn’t be ignored by HR leaders,” says Lucia.

“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.”

This desire for flexibility comes in the wake of COVID-19, which saw many industries realise the benefits of remote work.



Interestingly, while there were some clear distinctions between the generations, they also reported several similarities. With the cost-of-living crisis continuing to sweep the country, almost all workers emphasised the importance of fair and on-time pay. 

However, 31 percent of generation Z and 21 percent of millennials reveal they are sometimes underpaid, while over half of these two generations also say they have experienced an incorrect payment in the last twelve months. This can be the result of a number of factors including failed payment or an incorrect tax code.


Words into action

With so many different generations under one roof, it’s more important than ever to understand the motivations and needs of the modern workforce.

According to ADP, there are a few areas that employers can focus on to improve success and contentment for their staff. These are:

  • Developing a robust Human Capital Management (HCM) system to help employees feel like they’re being heard.
  • Utilising technology to monitor employees’ training sessions and career aspirations, as well as mapping the skills gap in the organisation to introduce change effectively.
  • Encouraging HR personnel to adopt a tailored and personal approach to recruitment and retention. This could include regular surveys and one-on-one meetings.

By implementing these strategies, Lucia believes businesses can create an office culture of community and knowledge sharing. 

“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,” she says.

“With the right approach, tools, training and continuous learning, individuals from each generation can flourish at work; now and in the future.”

To learn all about the right to disconnect reforms, click here.