Generations+Cooperation=No More Frustrations

This is the first in a series of articles about changing business environments and how they affect organizations and employees. The topics in this series will include:

  • generations in the workforce
  • fast paced technology
  • emerging business models
  • the sharing economy

One of the big topics of conversation these days is what’s happening in the workforce with the change of the guard from baby boomers to Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z.

Currently there are five generations in the marketplace:

Traditionalists (1900-1945)

Boomers (1946-1964)

Gen X (1965-1976)

Millennials (1977-1997)

Gen Z (After 1997)

Here are informative tables which compares various traits of the generations. The first one shows a breakdown of workers in the marketplace. This information is provided by the Boys Scott of America -







The traditionalists took over and built American business after WW II. Women left their factory jobs when their husbands came home from the war. They went on to have children and raise families while men went to college under the GI Bill and started and built businesses to make the country strong again. They are our parents and grandparents. They went to work for companies and honored the employee/employer unwritten contact of working hard, never missing work and building up the company revenues. In exchange, the company kept employees working until retirement. There were pension plans and gold watches. Those days are long gone. The number of traditionalists in the workforce today continues to dwindle and is at approximately 9% of the total.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers now make up approximately 31% of employees in this country. I fall into this category. I was born in 1949. I’ve worked since I graduated from college. I’ve been with start-ups and corporate behemoths. I’ve been laid off four times and fired twice. Baby Boomers continue to rewrite the rules like we’ve always done. Our latest reinvention is retirement. Many of us haven’t saved enough to retire as we had planned. One of the biggest expenses we hadn’t counted on was the cost of sending our children to college. We also didn’t see the collapse of the stock market. On the other hand, we are the consummate consumers and status seekers. We started out ending a war none of us wanted or understood, then reality set in and we settled down to have families and work. In many ways, we sold out and let ourselves be sucked into the “keeping up with the Jones” symptom. We have been accused of ruining everything for future generations. We made mistakes really BIG mistakes. Here’s the good news…..Boomers adjust quickly and admit things are not working. We are also very good at developing others and mentoring. We have years of business knowledge that we want to share with younger colleagues. We also want to learn from younger generations how to use technology and what trends they see. We don’t want to be left behind.

Generation X is probably the most overlooked generation. They account for 34% of the workforce today. Generation X is the first of the latchkey kids. They’re very independent because they spent a lot of time alone while their parents worked. They’ve watched as their future has been put in financial jeopardy and they are the first generation to realize they won’t have a better life than their parents. Gen Xer’s have learned that competition for jobs is the norm as well as market downturns.

As young adults, maneuvering through a sexual battlescape of AIDS and blighted courtship rituals—they have dated and married cautiously. In jobs, they embraced risk

and preferred free agency over loyal corporatism. From grunge to hip-hop, their splintered culture revealed a hardened edge. Politically, they have leaned toward pragmatism and no affiliation, and would rather volunteer than vote. Today, entering midlife battered by economic hardship, they ascend into political and corporate leadership roles feeling less like hailed winners than like resilient survivors, seeking out safe harbors for the sake of themselves and their families.

Millennials are definitely the most written about generation. They now account for the majority of workers in the workforce. Millennials are being dissected for all their habits, likes, dislikes, what they buy, how they buy, how they work. According to the Pew Research Center (

“Millennials have fewer attachments to traditional political and religious institutions, but they connect to personalized networks of friends, colleagues and affinity groups through social and digital media. Millennials are more burdened by financial hardships than previous generations, but they’re optimistic about the future. Singlehood sets Millennials apart from other generations. Just 26% of Millennials are marriedAbout half (51%) of Millennials believe they will get no benefits from Social Security and 39% predict they will get benefits at reduced levels.”

Nexters are a generation of children born between 1976 and 1994. Their numbers are increasing in the workforce, but statistics on them are still being gathered. For the most part, they are children who grew up with hectic schedules filled with baseball, piano lessons, and dance classes. They are accustomed to fast-food dinners and weekend soccer tournaments. They are the children of “helicopter parents,” a term coined because of the parent's hovering approach to parenting. Nexters chat online while listening to music on their iPods, and expertly search the Internet for answers to a history question that they cannot find in a textbook. They have a personal tutor, but he/she lives in India and they can access him/her anytime of the day or night through e-mail.

What does all this information mean? Leveraging the talents of these diverse generations is THE challenge facing all of us. How can we uncover better ways to work together? How can we discover how to meld all the experience and knowledge of these talented people? What is the magic pill we can all take to improve communications and start working together? Here are a few things we can do to get the process started:

  • Admit that we don’t know everything
  • Understand that can learn from each other
  • Recognize that we all compliment each other
  • Commit to being a mentor and being mentored
  • Champion strong generational communications in all facets of your life
  • Keep the lines of communications open

I’d be very interested in hearing what you think about this topic. Let me hear from you!

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