Generations in the Workplace Dr. Michael Wesson February 29, 2012 HR Liaison Network Meeting
“Today’s children love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority: they show disrespect for their elders, and love to chatter in place of exercise… The contradict their parents, talk before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize their teachers.” Socrates – over 2300 years ago
What is a “Generation” • A generation can be defined as a group of people born roughly within a twenty year time period during the same era in history.
Why differences between the groups? • Shared events define and influence a generation’s values who all come of age around the same time. • Population swings * Some people don’t believe they exist.
Generational Timeline 1922-1942 (56 million) • Builders, Traditionals, Veterans, Greatest Generation 1943-1964 (80 million) • Baby Boomers 1965-1978 (38 million) • Generation X or X’ers 1979-1999 (78 million) • Millennials, Generation Y, Nexters, Echo Boomers
The Builders (1922-42) • Descriptors: Conservative, disciplined, strong sense of obligation, fiscal restraint • Values: private, integrity, formality, respect for authority, sacrifice, loyal, risk averse • Life Events: Great depression, World War II
The Baby Boomers (1943-1964) • Descriptors: Workaholics, willing to fight for a cause, “pig in a python” • Values: Hard-work, optimism, sacrifice, self-fulfillment, individualism, material wealth, teamwork, loyalty toward an employer, conflict-avoidant • Life Events: Vietnam war, civil rights, Kennedy and King assassinations, Watergate, sexual revolution, freewheeling 60’s.
Generation X (1965-1978) • Descriptors: Baby bust generation; “Work to live” not “live to work”; lacking loyalty; slackers • Values: Work-life balance, self-reliant and autonomy, ruled by accomplishment not the clock, skepticism, diversity, career security • Life Events: Latch-key kids, high divorce rates, stagnant job market, corporate downsizing, MTV, AIDS, global competition, computer and video games.
Millennials (1979-1999) • Descriptors: Internet generation, multi-taskers, overly confident, attention-loving, task-oriented, feedback hungry • Values: Informality, civic duty, optimistic, diversity, work/life balance, adaptability • Life Events: Dramatic technological changes, social networking, school shootings, OKC, 9/11, Iraq/Afghanistan, “you are special” parenting, political correctness
Harry Potter describes the differences… VS. Boomers Millennials GENERATION X?
Five Major Workplace Differences • Need for immediate and continual feedback • X’ers and Millennials are different from Boomers who are annoyed when told things more than once • Respect for Authority • Boomers used to “distance” between management and subordinates; X’ers and Millennials don’t see that difference and are willing to ask questions that might viewed as disrespectful.
Millennials are the first generation who can access information without an authority figure.
Five Major Workplace Differences • Loyalty • Boomers commit to the company; X’ers commit to people; Millennials commit to an idea or cause • Work-Life Balance • X’ers and Millennials work to live. Boomers believe in “face time” and the fact that hours count. • Motivation • Millennials need to see the “why” before the “what”. Boomers more comfortable with authority and top-down mgmt.
Some major NON-differences • Desire for learning and development • Millennials do not all want to be taught by a computer… • Leadership • Good leaders are good leaders • Desire for advancement/promotions • Desire for a challenging job
Lessons for Managers • Adapting • Willingness to understand that the other generations have different backgrounds and mindsets – What makes you “react”? • Communicating • Boomers will need to “reach out” because Millennials don’t know how to. • Envisioning • Creating meaning (“why”) and accountability (explicit expectations
In case you're worried about what's going to become of the younger generation, it's going to grow up and start worrying about the younger generation. Roger Allen