The Challenge of managing different Generations

A new generation is formed every 20 years, there are significant differences in ideas, viewpoints and philosophies from each generation before them.

There are the Maturists or Traditionalists (Pre 1945) who in their generation had very well defined gender roles, and they considered the chain of command to be the most effective for business.  This generation respected authority and was mostly disengaged from technology of any type.

Now…we currently have the four generations in the workplace: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and Generation Z.

  • Baby Boomers were born from 1945-1960. They account for 29 percent of the current workforce and are generally highly competitive, optimistic and known to stimulate change.
  • Generation X-ers were born from 1961-1980. They encompass 34 percent of the present workforce and are the first generation to enter the labor force after the first wave of corporate downsizing. Generation X-ers are known to be driven and creative but also doubtful, particularly of institutions.
  • Generation Y, also known as Millennials were born 1981-1995. They make up approximately 34 percent of today’s workforce, and their defining characteristic is technology.  Millennials are multi-taskers who appreciate team-oriented work.
  • Generation Z or Post Millennials all were born after 1995 and contribute to about 1 percent of the current labor force. This generation has a unique sense of self and a nontraditional approach to life stages.  Gen Z is a generation of highly-educated, technologically-savvy, innovative thinkers.

Each generation is distinct, and companies will do well if leaders understand each generation’s strengths and weaknesses and work to diminish age-related misunderstandings.

When it comes to training, each generation will benefit from a method that considers their mindset.   The Baby Boomers are more cautious and do not want to appear incompetent in front of their superiors, while  the X-ers benefit from a variation of training methods, such as exercises and games, while Millennials expect training to move along quickly.

All generations are hungry for positive feedback, however, Boomers are accustomed to formal, annual reviews with documentation, while X-ers tend to seek feedback more informally whereas Millennials may be more aggressive in their approach and treat feedback as something that is owed to them.

Managers should assume the role of a coach rather than dictate discussions for Baby Boomers.  While X-ers need leaders to communicate with them frequently, give them credit for results and push them to keep learning.  Millennials need leaders to support a work/life balance and treat them as a colleague, they prosper in roles that push their limits since they grew up multi-tasking.

That being said…Employees of all generations seek more family time as well as aspire for meaningful and challenging work.

There are many common features that resonate with employees of all generations:

  • Pay and benefit package
  • Challenge and interesting work
  • Opportunity for career development
  • Challenge (the work itself: interest and variety)
  • Being treated with respect by managers and co-workers
  • An ethical organization

Unquestionably, identifying and building upon these common requirements, will create a cohesive workforce.

If all generations are communicating with and learning from each other, everyone will be able to feel their talents are recognized and valued.

If you focus on the commonalities that bring generations together rather than the issues that divide them you will build a team that includes all generations that learn from one another.

Now more than ever generations are increasingly called on to collaborate, so encourage your workers to see and treat each other as people despite generational differences.


How well do your multi-generational employees work together?


[themecolor]Dave Baney is the founder and CEO of 55 Questions, LLC.  We work with successful top executives with a driving ambition to crush their competition.  We help CEOs and Entrepreneurs improve alignment, communication and accountability throughout their organization.[/themecolor]

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