Workforce Generations

Learning outcomes

  • Describe the different workforce generations and their impact on the workforce

Four generations of S P Chaube's offspring including individuals ranging in age from approximately 10 years old to approximately 90.Think about your most recent family gathering.

Were your grandparents there? Maybe your parents, nieces, or uncles? What did conversations around the dinner table sound like? Sometimes family reunions are accompanied by a lot of drama and differing opinions. While some differences may be caused by opposing beliefs, other differences may be something a little less obvious. Generational differences can include lifestyle differences, motivational differences, etc. Although you may view these differences as quirky things your Aunt Aesha or Grandma Bimala say or do, there may actually be reasons they act a certain way. Understanding generational differences may help to shed some light on why your family acts the way they do. More importantly, learning about generational differences may provide helpful insight into how your coworkers operate. This can be extremely beneficial in creating healthy working relationships and developing a stronger team.

There are three generations who are primarily active in today’s workforce; Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y—with Generation Z just beginning to enter the workforce. Let’s break down each one and examine some similarities and differences! Keep in mind, these are generalizations and there are exceptions within each generation.

  • Baby Boomers: born between 1946 and 1964. Baby Boomers have been working the longest and have extensive knowledge and experience. They want and oftentimes expect others to value their input and opinions. Baby Boomers believe that hard work equates to long hours and that integrity in the workforce should be top priority. They are known to “live to work” and place extreme value on career advancement and promotion. They enjoy working in a team environment and are said to have created meeting culture.
  • Generation X: born between 1965 and 1981. Generation X has been through a roller-coaster of economic events. Downturns and upswings have impacted their career choices, career successes, and career futures. Unlike the Baby Boomers, Generation X has a more “work to live” mentality and value their life outside of the workplace. While they have a good work ethic, their work-life balance is of highest importance to them.
  • Generation Y: born between 1982 and 1997. Generation Y, also known as Millennials, are the youngest members of the current workforce. Generation Y typically grew up with two working parents and a to-do list constantly on display throughout their childhood. Because of this, Generation Y has the ability to multitask and also values work-life balance. However, differently from Generation X, Generation Y believes they need to accomplish things on their to-do list in order to enjoy their free time. Therefore, Generation Y tends to be very goal oriented and efficient.
  • Generation Z: born between 1997 and today. Generation Z has never known a world before technology. They have grown up in an “always on” world where technology is readily available and used on a regular basis. Technology has been utilized as a babysitter by many parents of this generation and it is also present in the classroom. This constant access to technology makes Generation Z extremely tech savvy but has also changed behavior and lifestyle. Whether or not these behavioral and lifestyle changes will carry on into their adulthood is yet to be determined. Generation Z is starting to enter into the workforce with the oldest members turning 23-years-old in 2020.

Practice Question

Why can’t we all just get along?

Although there are many differences between the three workplace generations we discussed, there are certain things that all three can agree on. All three generations place a huge value on family. In addition, all three generations believe training and feedback is extremely important for a successful career. Finally, change is hard. Young, old, or somewhere in the middle, most people do not enjoy change. Regardless of your personal opinions and preferences, getting to know your coworkers and how they operate is extremely beneficial to all three levels of influence.