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Navigating a Multigenerational Workforce



How many generational labels can you count? There's the "entitled Millennials", the "un-tech savvy Baby Boomers" and the list goes on and on. But did you know that each generation has something to offer to their team and to the company they work for?

For the first time in history, there are 4 generations working alongside one another. Each generation comes various strengths, but they also can bring disruption in how employees (or colleagues) operate within their workplace.

As Generation Z, those born after 1996, enter the workforce it will become more crucial than ever to learn how to navigate the generational differences within your office. Through understanding and attentiveness, co-workers can tap into one another's strengths, varied experiences and world view to boost a company's bottom line.

Here are the primary key-points you need to understand if you are entering or returning to the workplace or are currently working within a "melting pot" of generations. 

Baby Boomers

Born between: 1946-1964

Key Traits: Enjoy mentoring and take pride in a strong work ethic

Historic Events That Shaped the Generation: Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, Kennedy assassination, Woodstock

Baby Boomers have extensive work experience and have worked up the ranks to achieve professional success. Through their decades of work, they are known to be hardworking and motivated by their position in a company and perks provided. They typically believe the generations born after them need to "pay their dues". As this generation experienced a large "boom" of men and women seeking work, they tend to be more competitive within the work environment. Today, they make up 27% of the U.S. workforce.

What they Value in a Work Environment:

Baby Boomers tend to be workaholics but have a lot of work experience they are willing to share with those around them. For those who come from subsequent generations, seek to learn from your more seasoned counterparts--they are wanting to take you under their wing.

Gen X-ers

Born between: 1965-1979

Key Traits: Independent workers, innovative, and strong communication skills

Historic Events That Shaped the Generation: Fall of the Berlin Wall, Energy Crisis, the death of Kurt Cobain, the Challenger Disaster, the rise of the personal computer

While this generation marks the period of a birth decline after the baby boom, they are expected to outnumber Baby Boomers in the workplace by 2028. Individuals from this generation value work-life balance and are very flexible and adaptable to change. Of this generation, more than 60 percent attended college and tend to be more "ethnically diverse" and more educated than those before them. Typically, they prefer to work independently and seek environments with fewer rules that may constrain their work.

What they Value in a Work Environment:

Gen X-ers value their work but also the time they spend with their family. When they are "off the clock", they are out of their work-mindset and focused on loved-ones. Within the workplace, they strive to communicate to and be communicated with directly by their leaders and colleagues.


Born between: 1980-1995

Key Traits: Tech-savvy, collaborative, and focused on putting their time and effort into "the greater good", seek meaningful work, want to learn new skills

Historic Events That Shaped the Generation: 9/11, Great Recession, school shootings, rise and popularity of social media

As of 2017, there were a total of 56 million workers who were born between 1981 and 1996. This generation has been connected to certain negative stereotypes and clichés. Millennials grew up in a time where collaboration and teamwork were emphasized in school; group projects were more popular than individual work. They tend to appreciate a work environment where a collaboration of members is encouraged while each member has his or her defined role. Millennials have grown up with technology and are considered "electronically literate" and will rely on various online platforms to assist in their daily work.

What they Value in a Work Environment:

Millennials value the ability to work in an environment that is diverse and flexible but where they can also make a difference. Working with colleagues that understand their tech-savvy mentalities and desire to make a difference in the world will assist in the blending of this generation among others.

Gen Z-ers

Born: After 1996

Key Traits: Digitally fluent, practical, flourish in diverse work environments

Historic Events That Shaped the Generation: Rise of social media, invention of the iPhone, online gaming, cyberbullying, reality TV, text-messaging, the Great Recession

While Gen Z-ers share some of the same historical influencers as Millennials, they have their dominant traits that stand out for their generation. It has been predicted that this generation will work 17 different jobs, in 5 separate careers and live in 15 homes during their lifetime. Bloomberg estimated that they will surpass Millennials in 2019 as the largest generation at 32 percent of the population. While they grew up in a time of social media, Gen-Z focuses more on the quality of those they are connected with and building deeper and meaningful relationships.

What they Value in a Work Environment:

This generation values competitive wages, mentorship, and stability within the workplace. Typically, they are motivated by the ability to discover on their own terms and desire gratitude for their contributions to their work environment. Leaders should be aware that this generation desire to participate in on-the-job trainings in order to advance their skills as well as seek opportunities that will allow upward opportunities.

While each generation brings their own "personality" to the workforce, it's important to remember the generational values to create a cohesive company that can utilize each generation's skillsets to its advantage.

To learn more about Generation Z's career aspirations, check out the JA Teens & Career Survey.

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