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Generational Diversity in the Workplace [Cont]

Boomers

The actual “boom” in births in this country is identified by demographers as 1946

through 1964, but the boomer generation is generally identified as those born between 1940 and 1960. This group grew up during a time of prosperity (1950s) turned into a time of social upheaval (1960s and 1970s). Now aged between forty and sixty years old, the boomers account for 45% of the workforce, more than any other generation.

This generation is often described as “self-absorbed.” They certainly tout the power of the individual to accomplish whatever he or she sets out to.

They applied their parents’ hard work ethic more to the benefit of the individual, as opposed to the “company.” This generation began to experience a transition in the stability of the family, however. Education was seen more as a birthright than a dream. This generation is marked by the following core values:

  • Optimism
  • Team orientation
  • Personal gratification
  • Health and wellness
  • Personal growth
  • Youth
  • Work
  • Involvement

Generation X

The emergence of Generation X into the workforce coincided with the identification of generational differences as important in the workplace. In the early 1990s articles started appearing describing this generation as it moved into the workplace—with some suspicion and frustration. Born between 1960 and 1980, Generation Xers are now between 20 and 40 years old and number slightly fewer than the boomers, accounting for 40% of the workforce.

Generation X grew up during the 1980s and 1990s. In terms of workplace attitudes, Generation X is known primarily as the first generation to enter the workforce after the first wave of corporate downsizing. This affected Generation Xers’ approach to workplace loyalty and contributed to their entrepreneurial spirit. Where their parents lived to work, Generation X works to live, and work/life balance is also a hallmark of this generation.

Latch-key kids, often the children of divorced parents, change is more the rule for Generation Xers than the exception. Unlike their parents who challenged leaders with an intent to replace them, Generation Xers tend to ignore leaders. Their core values include:

  • Diversity
  • Thinking Globally
  • Balance
  • Techno-literacy
  • Fun
  • Informality
  • Self-reliance
  • Pragmatism

Millennials

The newest generation in the workforce, Millennials are those that were born after 1980. The oldest individuals in this generation are only 22 years old, yet they still account for approximately 10% of the workforce.

We are still learning about this generation (I would hope so; my three-year-old is part of this generation, and I am still learning about her!), but one of the clear defining characteristics is around technology. This generation was raised on the internet. Generation Xers are no strangers to technology, but Millennials have known nothing but PCs, email, and the internet. They knew what the verb “to click” meant before they could read. This has made their perspective more global, connected, and around the clock.

Millennials take the Generation X’s work/life balance one step further, to the point where leisure is actually interwoven with work. They are known for their flexibility, and they are often at least initially more comfortable with diversity than other generations. Their core values are being identified as:

  • Optimism
  • Civic duty
  • Confidence
  • Achievement
  • Sociability
  • Morality
  • Street smarts
  • Diversity