5 Generations in the Workplace: Their Values and Differences

By Indeed Editorial Team

May 18, 2022

In today’s workplace, it might not be uncommon to see employees of multiple generations working side-by-side. Our character traits and work habits are shaped by our personalities, not by our age. But it might be helpful to understand some of the historical and social influences that have impacted each generation.

In this article, we define what a multigenerational workforce looks like and help you underscore the differences in these generations in the workplace.

Related: 6 Qualities That Make a Great Team Player

What generation am I?

Take a look at the different generations in the workplace, and the years they were born to see which generation you’re a part of:

  • Traditionalists (1928-1945)

  • Baby boomers (1946-1964)

  • Generation X (1965-1980)

  • Generation Y (1981-1996)

  • Generation Z (1997-2015)

Traditionalists

Traditionalists, people born 1928-1945, make up about 3% of the workforce today.

Values: Traditionalists are known for their loyalty and for their efforts to help others.

Type of employee: They are known for their strong work ethic and formal nature in the workplace. They appreciate security in their positions and are earnest workers. They might be more accustomed to formal attitudes and work environments rather than relaxed, flexible work environments.

Baby boomers

Baby boomers, born 1946-1964, make up a large portion of the U.S. population. The birth rate increased during these years as parents of baby boomers felt more optimistic about the economy and the future of American society in the post-World War II era.

Values: Baby boomers are a group of hardworking individuals. This generation is not afraid to take risks to pursue their goals. However, they are dedicated to their jobs to achieve lifestyle success.

Type of employee: The typical baby boomer employee wants to be seen as loyal to their job and takes a job-centered mindset in the workplace. They’re not in constant need of feedback about their work but they do like insight in terms of professional development opportunities that can help them succeed in their present role with their company.

Their nature to take risks and challenge the status quo creates innovative workplaces and inspires teams. Their motivation to serve in higher-level positions suits them for teaching other generations about relationship development and communication as well.

Generation X

Generation X, born 1965-1980, counts for 44-50 million Americans. They’re considered a generation of independent individuals who pride themselves on their entrepreneurial spirit. They shook up the traditional workplace by valuing more relaxed, flexible environments.

Values: Generation X is made up of individuals who many describe as laid back or low-key and independent. They value friendly, flexible workplaces and productivity over hours spent at work. This generation seeks out efficiency and innovation in the workplace and their personal lives while valuing the autonomy to make choices and create relationships with mentors.

Type of employee: Independence and personal development are some of the common traits of Generation X individuals. They value their career path and seek to improve their skills. They’re also given credit for introducing the concept of work-life balance to complement monetary awards in the workplace such as bonuses and company stock options.

Generation X invented the trend of startup businesses, which has continued to increase in popularity today. Because of their skepticism of the status quo, they aren’t afraid to take risks that usually pay off in progress and innovation.

Generation Y (millennials)

Millennials are the first generation to truly grow up with the age of technological advances. They were born 1981-1996 and sometimes are referred to as Generation Y. They represent the fastest-growing segment of the workforce.

Values: Millennials seek meaningful work that allows them to grow and use their creative skills. They’re technologically savvy and use technology to make their work more efficient and generate a long-lasting impact for their team. They also yearn to grow and prioritize professional development over loyalty to a company similar to Generation X.

Type of employee: Millennials want to be evaluated by the results of their work. They tend to work in multiple workplaces to find the right career fit. Skills training, mentorship and consistent feedback are necessary for them to achieve longevity at a company.

Generation X employees started the trend of creating relaxed work environments and millennials began to expect it as they entered the workforce. Millennials aren’t afraid to challenge authority or the status quo to come up with innovative solutions to workplace challenges.

Generation Z

Generation Z individuals, born 1997-2015, are just beginning to enter the workforce.

Values: Generation Z prioritizes authenticity, truth and connectivity in their relationships and expects it from society. These employees are considered to be the first digital natives of our time.

Type of employee: While individuals of Generation Z are only starting to enter the workforce, they’re already making changes to expectations of work environments. They want authentic employers and see flexible work environments, clear directions and transparency about their work as near requirements. They value innovative ideas and they seek personal growth in the process of reaching performance goals.

Browse more articles