Part 1: Identifying the Generational Demographics
On Wednesday, November 2nd, we hosted another incredible speaker in our Flint & Steel series. We brought in Kristin Scroggin for a look at how generational diversity affects employee behavior within the workspace, and what managers need to know in order to support employee cohesiveness and maximize each group’s contributions to the organization’s goals.
With an average of four generations in any diverse workforce, it’s important to recognize the different styles and what it is that makes them tick. More importantly, she discussed how best to use those generational strengths to maximize the contributions of each group within your organization.
Because this is such a relevant topic for any manager or business owner these days, and because Kristin managed to cover so much ground in her presentation, we’ve broken this recap into three separate parts.
In part one of our 3-part series, we will focus on the generational breakdown and what key characteristics each group exhibits. In addition, we will quickly highlight how the environment they were born into helped shape them into who they are.
In part 2 we will discuss how these differences can translate into strengths, and how best to bridge the gaps between the groups in order to propel your team forward together by utilizing the principles from the Anticipatory Organizational Learning System.
Finally, in part 3 we will look at the importance of diversity within the workplace and how best to recruit and retain from the different generational demographics based on their values, interests and needs.
To start, let’s first examine the different generational demographics.
While there are subgroups within each primary group, the characteristics that unite them are far greater than the ones that differentiate them. For that reason, we are going to stick to the primary designations and not focus on the sub-categories.
Disclaimer: While there are always outliers and individuals who don’t necessarily fit neatly within any single defined generation, these overarching descriptions are generally a fair representation of each of the demographics.
- Key characteristics: Dependable. Blunt. Loyal
- In a nutshell: Grew up with the Great Depression. Prefer a personal touch. Believe age equals seniority.
Traditionalists are the oldest generation within our five generational demographic breakdowns, and as such, represent the smallest slice of the workforce pie.
Baby Boomers: 1946-1965
- Key characteristics: Optimistic. Competitive. Team-Oriented.
- In a nutshell: Heavily influenced by the Vietnam War. Prefer efficiency when it comes to communicating. Prepared to sacrifice for success.
Baby boomers were raised by survivors of the Great Depression and often outnumber their parents at a ratio of 3 to 1. They are the original Subject Matter Experts and have learned that by making themselves indispensable at work, it guarantees their employment. This can explain a reluctance to work with younger generations as they may harbor a fear that should they share their knowledge, it may render them expendable. That being said, they are incredibly social and love in-person meetings and phone calls.
Generation X: 1965-1984
- Key Characteristics: Informal. Skeptical. Flexible.
- In a nutshell: Latchkey kids. Grew up with the dot-com boom. Fiercely independent.
Generation X grew up with working parents, and as such, are used to looking out for themselves. This results can lead to a tendency to be fiercely independent and resentful of micromanagement styles that make them feel stifled. They tend to be more anti-social, and many are eagerly counting down the days when they can officially retire and leave the workforce all together. This doesn’t mean they are unwilling to work, just that they prefer to be told what to do once and then left to get it done. Gen X loves to communicate via email.
- Key Characteristics: Competitive. Achievement-Oriented. Open-Minded.
- In a nutshell: Grew up post 9/11. Tech savvy. Comfortable with digital communication. Prefer a solid work-life balance.
The hate Millennials seem to get these days is wholly undeserved. As a perpetually underappreciated demographic, Millennials are simply misunderstood. A good manager who wants to have a successful relationship with a millennial employee needs to know that as children raised in a ‘You can do anything,’ environment, that feedback is critical to their success. Whereas Generation X hates feedback and sees it as micromanaging, Millennials crave it. Millennials may have been raised with participation trophies, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to settle for substandard work results, it simply means they’re used to being told what to do every step of the way and that goals and milestones are how they gauge their success. Giving a Millennial a clear roadmap is the easiest way to manage expectations and help them realize their role within the organization.
Generation Alpha: 2006-Present
- Key Characteristics: Progressive. Entrepreneurial. Less focused on career.
- In a nutshell: Grew up in the great recession while still influenced by a post 9/11 world. Individual. Creative. Digital addicts who consume content constantly. Multitaskers.
As the newest kids on the block, Generation Alpha is still defining themselves. However, that doesn’t mean they haven’t already had a chance to set themselves apart from their predecessors. When it comes to technology, you’ll want Generation Alpha on your team. They are masters of the digital universe and can navigate virtual environments flawlessly. This makes them a vital part of your online digital strategy.
As you can see based on these breakdowns, there are five primary generational groups currently representing the global population. However, when it comes to actual workforce representation, the Traditionalists have almost all aged out. For that reason, in part 2 of the follow up blog, we will be focusing on the four primary generational demographics, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Alpha.
Stay tuned for part two and how best to take these wildly varying groups, maximize their contributions, and incorporate their strengths into your organization by managing conflict and maximizing communication.
And for more incredible opportunities to hear valuable lectures and presentations like this one, check out our Flint & Steel series page for future dates and programming announcements as well as catch up on previous speakers you may have missed.