A deeper look at the generations

The workplace is no stranger to diversity, including race, religion and culture. But in the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the diversity and differences in generations. With four generations working together, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z, managers must learn how to best serve and lead each group.

To effectively work with each generation, it is helpful to know their characteristics and what impacts them the most. Surprisingly, age is not the biggest determining factor shaping each generation. That title belongs to world events taking place during a person’s formative years.

Here is a generational breakdown to offer more insight into their differences.

Baby Boomers: 1946 -1964
Baby Boomers are the oldest generation in the workplace, making up 25% of workers. To effectively manage this group, employers and managers must provide specific goals and deadlines for them to meet. Their company loyalty and desire for teamwork set them apart from the other generations. Additionally, Baby Boomers believe that achievement and advancement are a result of consistent hard work and paying one’s dues. This group ranges in age from 59 to 78, and they were shaped by historical events such as the Civil Rights movement, Watergate and the Vietnam War.

Generation X: 1965-1980
Workers ages 43 to 58 make up the Gen X generation and 33% of people in the workplace. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the dot-com boom and the AIDS epidemic are key happenings that shaped this group. In the workplace, they can be motivated by diversity, a healthy work-life balance and their personal and professional interests over the company’s interest. Managers of this generation should offer immediate feedback and opportunities for career development. If those needs aren’t met, this group is likely to seek out other opportunities.

Millennials: Born 1981-2000
Boomers and Gen X have their differences, but they have more similarities than the subsequent generations. Some of the biggest influences for Millennials were the evolution of the internet, 9/11 and Columbine. Their communication style differs from the previous generations in that they prefer IMs and text messages over face-to-face talks or talking on the phone. This civic-minded group usually seeks out challenges and growth and craves a fun work life and a healthy work-life balance. Employers and managers should take time to get to know them on a personal level and be flexible with their schedule and work assignments. Wmake up this generation with 35% in the workplace. That percentage will increase to 75% in 2025.

Generation Z: Born 2001–2020
Generation Z is the youngest in the workplace. They are the first generation to grow up with the internet, cell phones and other 21st century technology, not understanding a life without being connected. Access to smartphones and social media is what has shaped this group the most. Gen Z values their independence and individuality, and they prefer to work with Millennial managers. They expect to work with innovative technologies that will allow them to show their creativity and personalization. During their job searches, they seek out companies that value diversity and individuality. To effectively manage this group, managers should offer opportunities to work on multiple projects at the same time and provide a healthy work-life balance. While there are outliers in each generation, Gen Z’ers prefer to be self-directed and independent. Currently, only 5% of workers are a part of Gen Z.

It’s clear that there are significant differences in each generation, and depending on the source, the ages of each may differ. The biggest factor to consider when deciding who belongs in which generation are the world events and advances that occurred as people were growing up. Regardless of generation, employers and managers should find ways to encourage a healthy work culture and a sense of belonging by focusing on how each group can effectively work together despite their differences.

Source: Purdue G­­lobal



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