The modern workforce now includes employees spanning three distinct generations. While all employees are inherently different despite age, differences between these generations do follow common themes– each has its own knowledge, strengths and weaknesses. Managers must know how to work with them all to maintain a successful business. If you understand a little bit about each group, you will appreciate what motivates them to maximize their output, leading to fulfilling opportunities for everyone.

Baby Boomers

Economists predicted that this period would be partly defined by baby boomers retiring en masse. However, as a result of the recession, many have either elected or been forced to extend their careers. Their concerns about their financial future and desire to retire, therefore, should not be taken lightly.

Although they are loyal, if you want to keep hold of them make them feel valued. Their experience is invaluable, especially when you have a workforce full of enthusiastic, but often erratic millennials.

While they’re still around, take advantage of their strong management skills and work ethic to help train your younger employees. Facilitate the passing of knowledge between generations, but remember that baby boomers tend to be independent, so let them do so as they feel comfortable. You shouldn’t worry about giving them too much freedom – baby boomers tend to be overachievers.

babyboomers, generation

Generation X

Gen X employees are technologically and internet-savvy, having seen modern technology introduced during their youth.

Many of this generation grew up without heavy parent supervision so as a result, also tend to be unafraid of working independently and taking risks. They’re also entrepreneurial so trust them to find inventive solutions to business problems and this will help your business’s agility in this ever-changing world.

However, GenX is the generation of instant gratification and they believe in a good work-life balance, so make sure they have the freedom to strike that balance or they will seek it elsewhere.


Generation Y

Apart from the baby boomers, GenY has been affected most by the recession. They make up the biggest proportion of the workforce, but also by far the biggest proportion of unemployed people in the US (48% in 2013).

They are pragmatic and hard-working, but they are jaded by the recent economic downturn and its effect on their job-search. They aren’t as loyal as previous generations and are open to new challenges. Provide ample opportunities in-house to progress or to further their education to avoid losing staff to your competitors.

In addition to personality differences, managers may have issues with the generational spread because they feel that this generation simply does not have the same set of skills as previous generations. 66% of businesses are still owned by Baby boomers, but most of their staff are statistically millennials and this clash of ideas and skills may cause conflict. Remember, a business’s expectations should be managed based on the makeup of its workforce as much as the whim of its owners.