Managing across generations and understanding how to communicate considering the generation characteristics of Boomers, Gen X-ers and Millennials (Gen Y-ers), will give your business a competitive advantage.

Hiring the right people and helping all employees manage the generation gap will reduce internal conflict as well as enhance employee motivation and productivity throughout your organization including:

  • Operations
  • Customer service
  • Sales & Marketing 
  • Research & Development

Marketing to the right demographic and giving them relevant messages will improve your success - both in what you say and where you say it. Tying this smarter approach to your Core CompetenciesMission StatementVision Statement and Goals will put you even further ahead of your competition.

Within this best practices article we will explore the generation characteristics of what motivates Boomers, Gen X-ers and Millennials (Gen Y-ers), and how managing across generations will help you to communicate with each generation more effectively by exploring their:

  • Employment Expectations 
  • Work Ethic / Loyalty

Note: Personality and aptitude tests like Myers-Briggs, Pathfinder and Kolbe still apply to all generation groups. When you are considering personal strengths and weaknesses, these very useful tools should not be overlooked.

Baby Boomers: Born between 1946-1964.

Teen-age Baby Boomers were individualistic and idealistic – very much like Millennial teens and young adults. They felt they could change the world and... they did.

As young adults Boomers took their values to work. They wanted meaningful work and embraced socially and environmentally conscious companies. Again, like Millennials they were driven more by their values than by money. Yet, by the time mid-generation Boomers started to have families, unemployment had risen to 10%. With mounting responsibility and fewer job options they became more individualistic and less idealistic – and became motivated by money, perks and prestige.

Today they are well-established in their careers and hold positions of authority. They are a large majority of today’s law firm leaders, corporate executives, and senior managers. They relish long work weeks and define themselves by the accomplisments and prestige of the company they work for as much as their own professional accomplishments.

Employment Expectations 
Baby Boomers believe in working your way up the ladder – whether you have a degree or not – experience is more valuable. As such they recognize hierarchy, paying your dues and that money and perks are the reward for hard work, long hours and commitment.

They are most familiar with annual reviews but are learning to embrace midyear and quarterly reviews as the pace of their work environment increases.

They value face time in the office and many Boomers will not welcome work flexibility or other work/life balance trends.

Work Ethic / Loyalty
Very motivated to do a great job and will be hardworking from morning to night. Baby Boomers have the mind set of "organize life around work and work around life" and "work your way to the top." Because they are defined by their work, (and by a recent economic downturn), they are working longer and retiring later.

Baby Boomers are loyal to the companies they work for. They want to trust their employers and will not move companies as quickly as either X-ers or Millennials.

As Boomers approach retirement and feel financially stable many re-embrace their early values of work/life balance and being socially and environmentally conscious. That said, the possession of items that demonstrate success and prestige remains important.

Complement Boomers to get their best work.

Generation X. Born between 1965 - 1977

Generation X-ers are a cross between the hierarchy embracing Boomers and the team driven Millennials – especially when looking at Gen X-ers born at either end of their era.

Gen X-ers have grown up with corporate downsizing, massive layoffs, governmental scandal, and come from two income and / or divorced families. With their parents often dedicating their lives to work, Gen X children were often left to accomplish tasks alone or with their siblings, therefore, they became independent, self reliant individuals.

They are much more comfortable with technology, diversity and global awareness than any previous generation. X-ers are the first generation to grow up with cd’s, remote controls and computers. Their circle of friends likely includes people from other cultures and they are one of the first generations to benefit from easier world travel and access to world-wide current events.

Gen X-ers place a premium on family time, are ambitious and hardworking and still value work/life balance.

Employment Expectations
After witnessing the burnout and / or layoff of their hardworking parents, X-ers entered the workplace as independent, resourceful and self-sufficient people who value freedom and responsibility. If they are put into a box they will start looking for a way to get out.

They are used to being leading edge – especially with technology (consider their familiarity with technology vs. their parents). Gen X-ers want to use their entrepreneurial spirit.

Generation X-ers are ambitious and eager to learn new skills. Provide meaningful work and link what you do to improving humankind. They want frequent training that relates not just to the job, but to their careers. They look for technology based instruction which includes multi-media and interactive, computer- based training.

Work Ethic / Loyalty
They seek fun and meaningful work. They value the freedom to set their own hours. Flexible work schedules and work-from-home options (as long as billable quotas are met), may help to retain and motivate this generation.

A hands-off attitude often works best when supervising, mentoring or working with this generation. Coach, don't lecture them. Gen X-ers value freedom and autonomy to achieve desired goals and often prefer to work alone rather than in teams.

They dislike “meetings about meetings” and don’t want or need face time.

Don't expect blind loyalty. Gen X-ers are supreme skeptics and cynics and value authenticity. They expect change. Gen X-ers thrive on diversity, challenge, responsibility and creative input. If their current firm does not provide them with these opportunities, they will not think twice to move elsewhere.

Make feedback regular and specific. Annual performance appraisals are too late - they need frequent, rapid, specific feedback.

Millennial (Generation Y). Born between 1978-1987.

Millennials have the reputation of being the toughest generation to manage. They grew up in a culturally diverse school and play environment, are tech-savvy, enthusiastic, self-centered, confident, well networked and achievement-oriented. Millennials are one of the best educated generations in history.

Like Gen X-ers, many Millennials were raised in two-income families with their parents often away from home. Despite this Millennials tend to have stronger relationships with their parents. Thanks to mobile technology their “helicopter parents” were rarely out of reach. Their parents focused on filling every moment of their Millennial children's lives – introducing them to an unprecedented volume of well structured and well supervised education and activities. Their busy schedules and expanded educational opportunities is where their confidence and need for variety and challenge comes from.

Millennials have been told by their parents that they can do anything. They are often called the "Everybody Gets a Trophy" generation because their parents' insisted that their childhood experiences be positive and that no one felt left out. Coming in first at school and at play wasn’t the goal – they were regularly praised and rewarded for their ‘best efforts’. Their helicopter parents brought them up teaching them that everyone has a valid opinion and deserves to be taken seriously… at least heard.

Employment Expectations 
Millennials do not expect to “pay their dues.” They expect their opinionsto be heard and considered and are not usually shy. Millennials want to know that what they are doing is valuable to the company and/or environment… as well as valuable to them and their career.

They have a strong desire for rewarding opportunities – for them and their company.

They are driven less by money and more by accomplishment. Millennials want to express their creativity and be able to complete tasks on their own - using their own methods. They will be quick to go online and search the www as well as ask their own network of friends / associates for information and stimulation. They are learning-oriented and if they’re doing something wrong they want to know about it now so they can move on.

Millennials were brought up working in teams with shared rewards – and they want to be coached / mentored. They want to know they have access to an open door to ask questions, and this usually means they will ask many questions.

Millennial parents and teachers gave Millennials lots of praise as well as second, third and even fourth chances. So as adults they need the same from their employer. They want to be told often they are on the right track and doing a great job.

Work Ethic / Loyalty
Clearly define your expectations. Millennials need detailed instruction about what you want – but let them determine how to get there. Make the work relevant to them and important to them and the company. If you engage them they will work hard.
Millennials are accustomed to new ideas and situations, a constant opportunity to learn (or more accurately find out).

Millennials will be loyal to a company – but will not provide blind loyalty. As long as their personal interest and career needs are being met (which change frequently) – and the company is socially responsible, the Millennial will be loyal. But they are not concerned about job-hopping. They will quit now and find that job later - and if that doesn’t work out they can always count on their helicopter parents for support.

Praise Millennials often – daily even… and for sure… coach them.

The Future...

What shall we expect from Generation Z: Born between the mid-1990s and the late 2000s?

So far relatively little is firmly established about the character and motivators of Generation Z-ers, but as children of X-ers who have grown up in the shadows of 9-11 and the war on Iraq, as well as access to information through the internet, cell phones, iPod's, YouTube and facebook pages they will likely be even more ambitious and more 'worldly' than any other new generation.

If you want to learn more about how you and your organization can benefit from our services, call us at 416.617.0462.

We work to build long-term, collaborative relationships that maximize your overall success and earnings.


Copyright © 2015 by Bruce Mayhew.


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