Note: This series is based on the paper My Generation.
The Multi-generational Workplace
Before generational differences can be adequately addressed it is important to have a high-level understanding of the four generations that share our workplace; Generation Y, Generation X, Boomers and Veterans.
“Armed with an improved knowledge of the motivators and disincentives that drive its employees, an organization is more likely to develop the recruitment and retention strategies that others only dream about.” The same can be said about engagement strategies.
Generation Y, Generation X, Boomers and Veterans
Veterans (or Traditionalists or Matures)
The Veterans (ie, people born approximately between 1922 and 1943) were children of the Great Depression and World War II. They lived through the Korean War and are recognized for their strong traditional views of religion, family, and country. Their core values include respect for authority, loyalty, hard work, and dedication. They make up about 10 percent of the U.S. workforce: They grew up in tough economic times during the Great Depression and World War II. Veterans tend to value hard work. They are dedicated, and not just to doing a good job or making themselves look good, but also to helping the organization succeed and getting customers what they need. They are great team players, carry their weight and don’t let others down.
The Baby Boomers (ie, people born between 1943 and 1960) did not experience the same difficulties as their parents. They grew up during a time of great economic growth and prosperity. Their lives were influenced by the civil rights movement, women's liberation, the space program, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. They place a high value on youth, health, personal gratification, and material wealth. Baby Boomers are optimistic and believe their generation changed the world. They make up almost half the U.S. workforce (46 percent): They grew up during an era of economic prosperity and experienced the tumult of the 1960s at an impressionable age. They are driven, love challenge and build stellar careers. Because they have had to compete with each other at every step of their careers, they can be highly competitive.
Generation Xers (ie, people born between 1960 and 1980) sometimes are referred to as the misunderstood generation. They are the product of self-centered, work-driven Baby Boomer parents. Watergate, the advent of MTV, single-parent homes, and latchkey experiences played influential roles in their development. They were the first generation to embrace the personal computer and the Internet. They welcome diversity, are motivated by money, believe in balance in their lives, are self-reliant, and value free time and having fun. Gen X makes up 29 percent of the workforce: Gen Xers witnessed their parents’ experiences with corporate downsizing and restructuring in the 1970s and ‘80s. Raised in an era of two-earner households, many of them got a child’s-eye view of work-centric parenting. They value flexibility, work/life balance and autonomy on the job and appreciate a fun, informal work environment. They are constantly assessing how their careers are progressing and place a premium on learning opportunities. They are technologically savvy, eager to learn new skills and comfortable with change at work.
Generation Y (or Millennials, Nexters, Generation Next)
Generation Y -- are those people born between 1980 and 2000. (4) They have no recollection of the Reagan era, do not remember the Cold War, and have known only one Germany. Their world has always had AIDS, answering machines, microwave ovens, and videocassette recorders. This generation includes more than 81 million people, approximately 30% b of the current population. Generation Y makes up just 15 percent of the U.S. workforce. However, over the next two decades that percentage will grow to approach that of the baby boomers in their prime.
Gen Y tends to be well organized, confident, and resilient and achievement oriented. They are excellent team players, like collaboration and use sophisticated technology with ease. They want to work in an environment where differences are respected and valued, where people are judged by their contributions and where talent matters.
“Their defenders say they are motivated, versatile workers who are just what companies need in these difficult times. To others, however, the members of “Generation Y”…are spoiled, narcissistic layabouts who cannot spell and waste too much time on instant messaging and Facebook. Ah, reply the Net Geners, but all that messing around online proves that we are computer-literate multi-taskers who are adept users of online collaborative tools, and natural team players. And, while you are on the subject of me, I need a month’s sabbatical to recalibrate my personal goals", according to an article by The Economist.
Research has shown that 401ks, salaries and other forms of monetary compensation are less important to Generation Y retention than fruitful collaboration with peers, recognition of work, opportunities for growth and the idea of “being a part of something”. These young employees are less averse to change and will tirelessly seek environments that promote these activities, leaving those that don’t.
Stay tuned for Part 5, which will delve deeper into cross-generational engagement.