Managing the Multi-Gens

One of the biggest trends today reflects the overall aging of the U.S. workforce:

  • By 2022, 31% of those ages 65 to 74 will still be working, an 11% increase over the last decade.
  • Over the past decade, Fortune 500 CEOs ages 65 to 69 nearly doubled, those ages 70 to 74 increased by 44%, and the average Fortune 500 CEO age has inched up to 58 from 56

Here are some quick tips and thoughts from the Census, Pew Research and demographers Neil Howe and William Strauss.

The "Greatest Generation" (or GI Generation) Born in 1924 or earlier.

Tom Brokaw coined the term the "Greatest Generation" as a tribute to Americans who lived through the Great Depression and then fought in WWII. As of 2016, there were approximately 1.5 million Americans in this age group 2*.  In a workplace setting, the GI generation:

  • Needs to know that you value their experience, so spend adequate time in orientation and training activities (including the use of technology).
  • Values and respects common norms of courteous behavior.

The "Silent Generation" (or traditionalist) Born 1925-1945

Time magazine dubbed the people in this age group the "Silent Generation,", in 1951 because they were more cautious than their parents. Their values were shaped by the Great Depression, World War II, and the postwar boom years.  As of 2016, there were up to 28.4 million Americans in this age group. Individuals in the Silent Generation:

  • Are considered the most loyal workers, the most highly dedicated and the most risk averse.
  • Possess a strong commitment to teamwork and collaboration.
  • Have high regard for developing interpersonal communications skills.

Baby Boomers Born 1946-1964

Baby boomers were named for an uptick in the post-WWII birth rate. As of 2016, there were up to 81.3 million. Their values were shaped primarily by a rise in civil rights activism, Viet Nam, and inflation. Baby Boomers:

  • Are the first generation to actively declare a higher priority for work over personal life.
  • Are competitive and believe workers should pay their dues.
  • 65% plan to work at least part-time in retirement.
  • 5% said that they never plan to retire, some because they like working, others because they need the money to replace lost retirement savings. *

Generation X Born 1965-1980

The name became popular after Douglas Coupland published his novel, “Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture,” about young adults during the late 1980s and their lifestyles. Generation Xers will outnumber baby boomers by 2028.

Gen Xers were shaped by events such as the Fall of the Berlin wall and were the first generation to enter the technology space with the advent and accessibility of the personal computer. They:

  • Naturally question authority figures
  • Are responsible for creating the work/life balance concept. Because Gen Xers place a lower priority on work, many from the Baby Boomer generation assume these workers are not as dedicated; however, Gen Xers are willing to develop their skill sets, take on challenges and adapt to job instability in the post-downsizing environment.

Millennials Born 1981-1997

Howe and Strauss introduced the term millennials in 1991, in their book, "Generations". The US Census reported that millennials outnumber Baby Boomers as a generation. This group is:

  • More diverse than previous generations, 44.2% are part of a minority race or ethnic group.
  • The first global-centric generation, having come of age during the rapid growth of the Internet and an increase in global terrorism.
  • Among the most resilient in navigating change with a deep appreciation for diversity and inclusion.
  • The most educated generation of workers today, due to significant gains in technology and an increase in educational programming during the 1990s
  • Represent the most team-centric generation.

The Next Generation
The next generation of children and teens born after 1997, has not been formally named by demographers yet. Many, by default, have titled this Generation Z. As of 2016, the number of people in this age group ranged from 65.2 million to 77.9 million.

Each generation provides a piece of what makes a unique landscape to the workforce. Learning productive ways to work across generations is essential, and the organizations that do this well will have significant strategic advantages over the competition.   Working with an executive coach may support your journey through a diverse workplace and help you in becoming a better leader, team member, or individual contributor.

*References:

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