Generations in the Workforce

In this podcast on the radio show Today’s Inspiring Women, Deanne discusses the Generations in the workforce. She gives an overview of the different characteristics of the four generations. Deanne gives managers tips on how to be more effective in leading and managing the different generations.

The world is very different than it was 20 years ago. The dynamic of four generations in the workforce, employed and interacting, often side-by-side at work creates new challenges. The four generations have opposing values and beliefs, making it difficult to creat a harmonious work environment. The generations are defined by more than a group of people within a birth time frame. Each generation has experienced different historical defining events, which has influenced their values and behaviors in the workforce.

Let’s Meet the Four Generations

Traditionalists – Born between 1922 – 1945

Baby Boomers- Born between 1946-1964

Generation X Born between 1965-1980

Generation Y / Millennial Born between 1981- 2000

The Newest generation that will soon arrive is Generation i ( as in iPod, iPad, iPhone) born in 2001- ??

The goal of the radio interview is to help you bridge the gap and solve the multi-generational puzzle which faces workers today. The information provided is not intended to pigenhole or otherwise label anyone, however it is based on vast amounts of original research and generalities observed through the research process. The profiles will help you more clearly understand the four generations that are in the worforce today.

In the radio interview podcast, Deanne discusses the common trends, the myths, and some of the communication triggers of the four generations.


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If you would rather read the transcript of the interview Deanne gave that is listed below.

Interview from the Radio Show Today”s Inspiring Women Deanne DeMarco speaks on the Generations in the Workforce

Transcript of the Radio Interview is below. All the commercials have been taken out.

Managing the Four Generations in the Workforce

The following is a speaking word transcript of the interview on Today’s Inspiring Women Radio Show.

I started studying this new generation of student back in 1992, I published my first paper for other educators on how to connect with the new generation of student. After a little while, I jumped ship and left academia. I went into the corporate world. And it turned out I had the same generational issues facing managers in the workplace. So I continued to research and study the new generations in the workplace. Since then I’ve put together a coaching program, which has won top awards and was in Training Magazine’s Top 100.

So I want to talk you about managing the four generations in the workforce. For the first time in this country, we have four different generations in the workplace. We have our traditionalists, who were born 1922 to 1945. The traditionalists are 3% of today’s workforce. We have our baby boomers, who were born 1946 to 1964. From 38% to 40% of today’s workplace is made up of baby boomers. The baby boomers are beginning to retire, but we still have a fair number of them in the workplace.

We have Generation X, who were born 1965 to 1980. About 44% of the workplace is Generation Xers. Then we have Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, born 1981 to the year 2000. Between 13% and 18% of today’s workplace is made up of the Millennials. As the Baby Boomers are retiring the millennial group is increasing in our workplace.

All four of those generations see the world in a different way. Some of the problems that managers are facing are things like increased turnover. When we have these top-notch, key employees, we’re not good at keeping them. We’re really good at keeping the employees that we’d love to get rid of, but they never leave. But we do have increased turnover with that key talent that we really want to keep.

We’re seeing a lot of increased conflict between groups and with those of us who are managers. We’re having problems with accountability. Because these different generations see accountability differently, as well. Teamwork is an issue. Respect is a huge problem because the different generations view respect differently. Loyalty is another issue as well. Retention is another area.

So each of these different generations see things very differently. A quick example. I’m a Baby Boomer and for my generation, if we were going to leave a company, we’d give a minimum of a 2-week notice before leaving. With the Millennial group, in particular, if they were to leave a company, they may just leave the keys on their desk with a note on their computer that says gone. No notice at all.

So there’s a real contrast in how managers have to deal with the four generations. One of the things that managers need to know is about the information needed to manage these workplace issues. One of them you need to understand is that the old way of managing does not work. You need to have some new skills. You need to learn coaching because coaching is the number one thing that managers today must be skilled at.

It’s no longer cracking the whip and playing military sergeant. It’s more of a dialogue with employees to drive accountability, drive productivity and drive the relationships. There are actually 21 different areas that managers need to be aware of. I just want to touch on a few of them because we only have a little bit of time here. I do want to touch on a little of these major areas that you need to be aware of.

For example, technology. That’s probably a no-brainer, but I just want to start there. When it comes to Baby Boomers and Traditionalists, we were pretty naïve when it came to technology. The Gen-X group, on the other hand, got their first computer when they were in grade school and started out in a technology mode. The Millennial group is very, very savvy about technology and started working with computers before they even got into grade school.

So there’s a huge difference in technology, where you have Boomers who might be a little nervous about something new in technology and may be apprehensive about learning a new program. Whereas your millennial group are saying, “Give it to me. I’m ready for something new.” Which leads into change. As a general rule, Boomers hate change. They like things to be consistent. The Gen-X group has learned to accept change and The Millennial group demands change because they’ve been so used to change.

One of the things I want to throw in here is the myth around the Millennial and the Gen-X groups. There is a lot of negative talk around the millennial group. They’re not accountable. They’re not willing to pay their dues, they’re lazy, the world will fall apart once they come into management. I need to tell you that information was first published in Life magazine back in October of 1964 talking about the Baby Boomers.

The article was published again in the 1980s talking about the Gen-X group. They’ve been using the exact same words over and over again no matter what generation you’re talking about. In fact, that Life magazine article back in 1964 actually said that when the Boomers got into being CEOS of companies, the companies would fall apart. So I just wanted to give you a heads-up on that one.

I want to talk a little about the heroes of the four generations. Because this really plays in our workplace today. Heroes of the Baby Boomer generation were famous actors, famous athletes. Whereas the heroes of the Gen-X Group were people like Michael Jordan and believe it or not, Mr. Rogers from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. That’s because 50% of the parents of the Gen-Xers got divorced.

So a lot of the Gen-Xers were the latchkey kids. They saw themselves home after school, got their homework started, got their own snacks and the one constant everyday was Mr. Rogers and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers actually became very comforting to them, so he became one of their heroes. What’s interesting is that the heroes for the millennial group for the first time are not famous people. The heroes for the millennial group are mom, dad, a close family relative or a close family friend.

It’s the first time in history that the heroes of a generation have not been someone famous. It’s also the first time we’ve seen both parents, mom and dad, working and raising the children. Why that is important in the workplace is that if you’re a manager, you need to understand that the relationship is more important than how important you are in organization. Because they are very relationship driven.

I’ve also been hearing a lot of complaints from managers saying, “I’m interviewing Joe or Suzy and they want to bring their mom or dad or uncle or their next-door neighbor into the interview. What is it with these helicopter parents?” That’s because those people are the heroes for the millennial generation. So you need to understand that. Sometimes in the workplace, we’re able to bring a kid to work. Well, a lot of Millennial want to bring a parent to work or bring a family friend to work. Because they’re very relationship driven.

The next thing you need to understand is college education. Only 3% of the traditionalists were college educated, so they were very much a learn-by-doing generation. After World War II, the GI Bill came into play and about 30% of the Boomer group was able to get a college education. With the Gen-X group, we have about 60% that are college educated. With our millennial group, we’re looking at 70% with college educations. What’s really interesting is that of the 70%, 54% are going on for graduate degrees – Master’s degrees or Ph.D. degrees.

And of that group, the largest percentage are women going for graduate degrees. So that plays a huge part in managing the different generations because they come into the workplace already as a highly-educated group. And they expect you to address them and work with them accordingly as if they are an intellectual group.

Commercial break

I was talking about working with the four generations in the workplace and what you need to know if you are managing the four different generations in the workplace. Before the break, I was talking about some of the major issues and differences with the four generations. We had talked about technology and change and view of work and heroes and college education.

One of the other major issues that comes up is respect. You need to understand that traditionalists were raised in a very military type of format, so respect for elders was automatic. The same thing with the Baby Boomers. You were respected based on the fact that you were older than the Boomer was or if you had a title that commanded respect. For example, if you were a manager or a doctor or a lawyer, you were automatically given respect based upon your title.

You need to understand the Gen-Hers and Millennial’s do not see respect in the same way. Generation X is very cautious when it comes to respect. Part of that is some of the things that occurred when the Gen-Xer was growing up. For example, Generation X witnessed the Challenger disaster right on TV in school. So they questioned what was going on. They saw what was happening or not happening with the molestation of children in some of the churches. So the Gen-Xers became cautious about respect.

The Millennial generation is a group that says respect is important, but you need to respect me too. Respect is a 2-way street. So with the millennial group, don’t expect automatic respect. You need to understand that they expect you to respect them and then they in turn will respect you. So there’s a definite difference in how each of these different groups see respect.

Another difference that divides the different generations is loyalty to employer. Both the traditionalists and the Baby Boomers view loyalty differently. The traditionalists, in particular, were very loyal to their employer. It was a cradle-to-grave kind of society. You stayed with a company until you retired and you retired with a gold watch, the party and the cake and everyone saying goodbye to you.

With the Baby Boomers, their loyalty is the philosophy of let’s work hard and we’ll get to the top. The only problem is that a lot of Baby Boomers when they hit around age 40, they were outsized, right-sized and inside-out sized because there was a lot of downsizing at corporations. And some Baby Boomers had to start a whole new career at age 40. What that did is it influenced the Gen-X group, who were the children of the Baby Boomers.

When it comes to loyalty to employers, the Generation X group is saying, “I’m going to keep my options open. I’m going to keep my resume ready just in case there’s a problem here at work.” So loyalty is no longer a given. The Gen X group is keeping their options open. Because the parents of the millennial group are the younger Baby Boomers, they’re saying, “You need to show me loyalty first because I know if there’s a problem, I’m out of here and you’ll find someone else. Or you’re just going to downsize and wipe out a department.”

So the Millennial group is definitely short-term. They may have six to eight different jobs on their resume rather than just one or two like the Baby Boomers had planned. The Millennial group is definitely short-term. You need to show me loyalty first and then I will think about being loyal to you.

The other area that comes into play with managing the four different generations is around core values. With the Boomers, it was all about personal gratification around personal growth and working hard. With the Gen X group, it’s all about balance and a work-life balance. In fact, what we’re seeing in our workplace today with all these work-life balance issues is because the Gen X group has pushed that. I don’t think that’s bad actually.

But the Gen X group has been pushing the work-life balance issue. So they look at a company as one where they’re able to work hard at work, but also able to have time with their families at home. Because dad and mom are both working to raise the children. One of the core issues for the Millennium group is all around being honest. Being real. Don’t be phony.

Civic duty is important to the Millenniums. One of the things you need to understand as a manager is that a lot of these Millennium workers back when they were in high school had already put in hundreds of hours doing civic duty. Cleaning up the highways. Working with the under-privileged, bringing food to the homeless, working in many different ways in civic duty opportunities.

The other piece that’s really important to the Millenniums is integrity. If you’re saying you’re going to do something, you need to follow through. Don’t say do what I say, but don’t follow what I’m doing. You need to walk the talk and be genuine in your communication with them. As I mentioned earlier, one of the things that managers need to learn is how to coach their employees. One of the skills that managers need to learn is how to ask those powerful questions in coaching those employees.

That works for all the generations, but particularly with Gen X and the millennial group. We’ve been raised with the model of directive coaching and so we don’t really know the non-directive form of coaching. The non-directive form of coaching is the asking the powerful questions. An example of a powerful questions would be “What does success look like for you?” Another example of a powerful question is “What is the process you’re going to follow on this project?” Another is “What obstacles do you think you might encounter with this project?”

So you’re asking those powerful, non-directive questions rather than jumping in and saying, “This is what I think you should do” or “This is the way I think you should approach this.” So asking the non-directive questions, such as ‘What’s the problem?” Or “How do you think you did on this report?”

If you are looking for tips and strategies to:
* Manage the four generations
* Reduce turnover
* Reduce job-hopping
* Retention strategies
* the NEW Attraction strategies

Give me a call at