Leading the Generational Workforce: Part Three – Generation X and Generation Y

Senior Strategic Partner, Laura Dillingham continues her examination of the various generations in the workforce in Part Three of this continuing series. The most recent generations, X and Y are clearly the future workforce. Their attitudes, views and work styles are critically important to understand in order for leaders to maximize productivity in the workplace. Enjoy Laura’s third article and tune in for our webinar on November 20th at 8:00 AM PST.

In Understanding Generational Differences, Part One and Part Two, we looked at the Traditionalists and the Baby Boomers. We reviewed the timeframes that these generations were born, approximately how many people are in these generations and possibly in the workforce, their core values, and the events and trends that were occurring during their life that helped shape these generations.

In Part Three, we will examine the remaining generations, Generation X and Generation Y. We will also take a brief look at the upcoming and still officially unnamed Generation Z. In the final Part Four of this series we will discuss what organizations (specifically management and leadership) can do to assist this mixed multi-generational workforce and their organizations.

Generation X, also known as Xers are those workers born between 1965 and 1980 and number roughly 70 million people. Their core values are diversity, thinking globally, techno literacy, fun, self-reliance, pragmatic, independence, creativity, loyalty to a mentor or profession (not the organization) and they have an entrepreneurial spirit.

Xers tend to be risk takers, skeptical, family oriented, concerned with self-image, need continuous feedback, often question authority and like to be given a lot to do with freedom regarding how the work itself is done. If they are doing a bad job, it may be because they feel ‘bored and ignored.’ They like continuing change and interesting and exciting work. The events and trends that shaped this generation were Watergate, possibly being latchkey kids, world exposure, the computer, the Wall Street frenzy and the Challenger Space Flight.

Xers communicate through email rather than in-person or in meetings. They look for and prefer immediate feedback. In fact, because they were raised with it they expect it. They are entrepreneurial and independent and want and expect freedom in the workplace.

Xers were the first generation to grow up in a two income family. They observed their parents’ attempts to have it all. As a result, this generation tends to seek balance in their work and in their life. They look at their careers on a continuous basis re-evaluating where they are, where they are going and ultimately where they want to be and want to have. They believe in gaining skills they can take with them to the next organization. They are extremely cautious about investing in relationships with employers.

Some people who were born between 1965-1980 are J.K. Rowling (Author), Robert Downey Jr. and Charlie Sheen (Actors), Tiger Woods (Golfer), Michael Buble (Singer), Alex Rodriguez (Baseball Player), David Shuster (Journalist), Andy Wachowski (Film Director-The Matrix), Peter Thiel (Co-founder of PayPal), Deion Sanders (Football Player), Richard Miniter (Pundit-Losing bin Laden), Jony Ive (Senior VP of Industrial Design, Apple), Carla Bruni (First Lady of France).

Millennials also known as Generation Y, “Net”-sters, the Internet Generation and the Echo Boomers are those workers born between 1981 (and either 1990 or 2000) and number roughly 73 million people depending on the final date chosen. They are the youngest in the workface. Their core values are confidence, diversity, civic duty, challenges, morality, sociability, achievement and collaboration. They have a global world view and propensity for multi-tasking, impacting the world through automation, a belief that technology is a natural part of life and they have an ease with all things digital.

Millennials tend to be optimistic, good at multi-tasking, tenacious, team players, flexible and conventional. They have a ‘can do attitude’ and look for new challenges. Like their parents, they are used to making and spending money and most of them have never known a life without computers. In fact, many of them learned the keyboard before they learned to write. The events and trends that shaped this generation were internet chat, school violence, the Oklahoma City bombing, TV talk shows, multiculturalism, and sports figures such as Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa. Millennials have high expectations of their workplace.

Millennials are known for being social. They tend to live for the moment. They have grown up multi-tasking so they are confident and sometimes appear to have short attention spans. They often say what they’re thinking.

Computers and the Internet have always been a part of their lives and they prefer to communicate using it. They expect flexible work schedules and the ability to telecommute or to have a job where they work at home. When they do something well they prefer instant recognition and feedback. Millennials do not have loyalty to a workplace. They tend to be entrepreneurial and goal oriented, but work is only a means to an end. They crave balance.

Some people who were born between 1981 and 2000 are Eli Manning (Football Player), Beyoncé Knowles (Singer/Actress), Serena Williams (Tennis Player), Adriana Lima (Model), Hope Solo (Soccer Player), Frankie Grande (Web Video Star), Usain Bolt (Runner), Lady Gaga (Singer), Phillip Phillips (Singer), Philippe Cousteau Jr. (Oceanographer), Jon McLaughlin (Reporter), Marcel Vigneron (Chef).

Generation Z is the generation of children born after either 1990 or 2000. There is no agreement on the exact dates of this generation because studies tend to want to start this generation beginning after 1990. If this is agreed upon and finalized, then this would make them the largest generational group in the U.S. These are the children of Generation X and Y.

We don’t know much about their character or traits because they are still a young generation. However, they are living in an age of high-tech communication with technology driven lifestyles and extremely prolific use of social media as the dominant form of communication. They communicate with speed, emoticons and emoji’s instead of words. They are accustomed to rapid-fire banter and commentary. They are considered digitally over-connected (using a minimum of five screens daily) and spend over 50% of their time using mobile devices, computers, etc. Marketers are already targeting this generation.

It has been predicted that the majority of this generation want to have an impact on the world and roughly one in four will be involved in volunteering. Less of the Generation Z’ers will be concerned with achieving advanced degrees.  However, they are very individualized (more about helping themselves) and are more entrepreneurial than millennials. Most information at this point is inferred and remains to be supported.

In Part Four, we will use this information and begin to explore what organizations (specifically management and leadership) can do to assist this mixed multi-generational workforce and their organizations.



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