Today’s Multi-Generational Workforce

Today’s Multi-Generational Workforce

Progressive employers are embracing the forces of change brought by a multi-generational workforce. Employees in today’s workforce span four generations: Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), Millennials (1981-1997) and Generation Z (1998-2002). When leaders understand the generational influencers they are better equipped to create a workplace environment that promotes collaborative relationships and increases productivity by leveraging the contributions of each generation.

The Baby Boomer generation was raised by the Builder generation. The Builders lived through the Great Depression and World War II. This generation endured financial challenges and was taught to work hard and sacrifice. Their children became known as the Baby Boomer generation and represented a staggering 40 percent of the world’s population.

The Baby Boomers carried their values of a strong work ethic to the workplace environment. This generation is driven, career-focused, and rigid with a formal communication style. Executives of businesses large and small are members of this generation, and their values have left a lasting impact on society and the businesses of today. Members of this generation find personal achievement in mentoring the next generation as they begin preparations for retirement.

Members of Generation X were children of a shifting societal values change. Sometimes known as the “latchkey generation,” meaning they were more likely to have grown up in a household with less parental supervision due to increased divorce rates and maternal participation in the workforce. As a result, individuals of this generation are self-reliant, value flexibility and are motivated by a work/life balance.  

This generation was more likely than generations before them to decline promotions or select positions that did not compromise their work/life balance. Generation X is engaged in technology and prefers informal communication style. Sandwiched between the larger Baby Boomer and Millennial generations, Generation X was the largest generation in the workplace during the short time-span of 2012 to 2015.
The Millennial generation, having grown up with the Internet, became accustomed to instant responses. When they joined the business environment, with employers slow to action, they sought after businesses that met their need for opportunity. This gave their generation a reputation of being job hoppers. As the Millennial generation begins to age, they are moving into higher level positions and new life stages resulting in increased job stability.  

Technology is an integral part of this hyper-connected generation’s lifestyle. They prefer a casual and real-time communication style.  They view technology as the key to effectively providing their employers a strong always-connected work ethic without compromising their work/life balance. They seek autonomy in the workplace to conduct business outside of the traditional walls and hours of the office. As evidenced by Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, this generation embraces diversity in the workforce, which has grown rapidly due to immigrant workers joining the workforce as Millennials.  As of the first quarter of 2015, the largest share of the American workforce is now represented by the diverse millennial generation.  

As Baby Boomers begin to retire it is the millennial generation that is expected to fill the management roles once held by Baby Boomers. For these reasons, an increased focus has been placed on the values and viewpoints of Millennials. Similar to the impact of the Baby Boomer generation, the millennial generation is expected to change the shape of the current business environment.

Generation Z is now entering the workforce and are filling the entry-level positions previously held by Millennials. Generation Z has been exposed to technology at the early stages of childhood. This generation will continue to place high demands on businesses to increase mobile technology capabilities and create a pleasant user experience.  Generation Z places a strong value on social connections and will gravitate towards companies that have a positive social presence.  

From one generation to the next there is a gradual shift in values and belief systems stemming from their environmental influencers. These powerful influencers create skills and opportunities unique to their generation. A multi-generational workforce allows businesses to capitalize on the strengths in which each generation brings to the organization. The foundation for effectively blending a multi-generational workforce begins with understanding, respect, and keeping an open-mind to change. Avoiding generational stereotypes and embracing the commonalities between generations will build trust and collaboration among those who work side-by-side. Leaders who recognize the generational forces, and adapt their style and business practices to meet the needs of their multi-generational workforce, will effectively increase employee satisfaction, attract, and retain talent.