Generational Demographics in the Workplace

By Dummies Press

As you develop your organization’s engagement plan, you’ll want to take generational differences into consideration to be an effective leader. First, however, you should get a sense of how many Millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers, and even Traditionalists you have in your firm. Use a form like the one in this figure to write down your numbers.

work-influence-generations
Track your generational demographics.

Check out these articles for help in working with and leading specific generations within the workplace: How to Work with and Lead Baby Boomers, How to Work with and Lead Generation X, How to Work with and Lead Millennials. For help juggling the various priorities of each generation, see the following table.

Generations at Work

Baby Boomers (Born 1946–1964) Generation X (Born 1965–1980) Generation Y (Born 1981–2002)
Values Workaholic

Competitive

Innovative

Questions authority

Materialism

Personal/social expression

Skepticism

Work-life balance

Global thinking

Diversity

Unimpressed by authority

Fun

Self-reliance

Cynicism/pessimism

Team player

Enthusiasm for change

Respect for authority

Tempered hopefulness

Sociability

Optimism

Work is An exciting adventure A difficult challenge A means to an end
Leadership style Consensual

Collegial

Challenges others To be determined
Communication In person

In meetings

Direct

Immediate

Email

Voicemail

Text message

Direct message

Twitter

Instagram

YouTube

Feedback Doesn’t appreciate it Asks, “How am I doing?” At the push of a button
Rewards Money

Title

Recognition

Freedom

Independence

Meaningful work
Motivation The need to feel valued and needed Do it “my way”

Work-life balance

Work with bright staff

Work-life balance

Social interaction through technology

Engagement strategies Establish non-authoritarian environment

Offer fresh assignments

Provide developmental experiences

Tap into their expertise

Ease pressure of complex life

Allow time for questions

Provide references

Use time-efficient approaches

Keep up a quick pace

Be specific about growth

Allow time to earn their respect

Provide interaction with colleagues

Bring up to speed quickly

Encourage mentoring

Use technology

Nonparental approach

Knowing the traits commonly found among members of a particular generation can help you pinpoint what drives the individuals in your firm. One Millennial woman was incredibly driven by recognition. Money was practically irrelevant to her. So, she had plenty of face time with executives whenever the opportunity arose. On the opposite end of the spectrum was a Boomer in his early 60s, who showed signs of becoming disengaged during a period when layoffs were necessary. Because this man’s various financial responsibilities likely made security a key driver, he was frequently reassured that his job was safe.

The generations do have very different views on authority, teamwork, development, and work–life balance, but everyone — regardless of age — wants the following:

  • Achievement: Taking pride in one’s work.
  • Camaraderie: Having positive, inclusive, and productive relationships.
  • Equality: Being treated fairly in matters such as pay, benefits, and developmental opportunities.

Smart bosses know that to boost engagement, they must build cultures with these three values in mind.