Career Development

Your Guide To Generations in the Workplace

February 11, 2021

Employers face the challenge of managing a workforce made up of five generations. The population of workers is getting older because employees aren’t retiring as early and people are living longer and healthier lives. Thus, employers and employees need to learn how to navigate a workplace with people who have different backgrounds.

As an employee, you may not be aware of your tendencies in the workplace and how they match the rest of your generation. Learning the values and customs of older or younger generations can help you create stronger work relationships as well. In this article, we will 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 in 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. As children, this generation was expected to be seen and not heard in their typical environment. Their parents raised them with strict rules and high expectations, giving them the drive to attain the goals they set out for themselves.

Values: Traditionalists are known for their loyalty and for their efforts to help others. Their motivation at work is focused on job titles and the amount of compensation they receive.

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. Rather than prioritizing personal career development, they see their efforts as a service to the company.

They prefer more formal attitudes and work environments than relaxed, friendly work environments. Because of this attitude, they may be surprised by the friendly tone of the modern workplace.

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. They’re ambitious in the workplace and they seek luxury status symbols in their personal lives. This generation is not afraid to take risks to pursue their goals. However, they are dedicated to their jobs to achieve lifestyle success. They typically attribute much of their self-worth to their occupation.

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 highly prioritize career ambition and financial success, so finding a work-life balance is challenging. They’re not in constant need of feedback about their work—considering their goal of earning a promotion. 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. Due to the burnout that their parents have experienced at work, they value their career path and improving their skills over loyalty to a company. 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’re seen as the most educated generation in the workforce thus far and 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 on the result of their work, not their amount of effort. They tend to work in multiple workplaces to find the right career fit. Skills training, mentorship and consistent feedback are necessary for them to achieving 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. While these employees are considered to be the first digital natives of our time, they still value offline relationships and person-to-person interactions.

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 social awards for experiential projects that credit them for innovating and seek personal growth in the process of reaching performance goals.

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