Talent Management

Aligning the perspectives in the multi-generational workforce

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Having a multi-generational workforce can make for a robust and healthy business atmosphere. But it may take some work to align the mix of perspectives.

Baby boomers, Generation X and Millennials make up the majority of today’s workforce. Having a little insight about what motivates each can lead to harmony in the office.


  1. Baby boomers: Born 1946-1964

Baby boomers are competitive and motivated by challenges. Having gone through several boom-and-bust eras, they’ve gotten good at reinventing themselves. They’re good at solving problems and can re-direct quickly.

Boomers work hard to get ahead and ensure job security. They’re the original mega-consumers, and to them, bigger is better.

Some characteristics of baby boomers

  • Competitive
  • Adaptive
  • Hard-working
  • Believe they’ve paid their dues

What boomers want in the workplace

  • Respect for what they know
  • Face-to-face interaction
  • Technology and educational support
  • Challenges
  • To make a difference – this is a key motivator
  • Flexibility

  1. Generation X: Born 1965-1980

Gen Xers are independent and self-reliant – they had to be. Most grew up with both parents working; they were the “latchkey” generation. And watching their parents lose jobs in the economic downturn of the 1980s impacted how they feel about job security. They believe it rests on them, not the company.

Generation X doesn’t wait for training to be handed to them, they develop their own skills and their loyalty is to themselves. But don’t take this as arrogance, it’s simply independence.

Some characteristics of Generation X

  • Entrepreneurial
  • Independent and self-reliant
  • Technologically proficient
  • Suspicious

What Generation X wants in the workplace       

  • Work/life balance
  • Clear goals and deadlines
  • Information
  • A culture that values the individual
  • Self-management of time
  • Frequent, specific and timely feedback

  1. Millennials: Born 1981-2000

Millennials, who were praised and included on decisions from menu choices to vacations as children, have no problem voicing their opinions as adults. They ask questions and expect to be recognized for achievement.

Don’t expect them to pay their dues by putting in time – their focus is on productivity and they want to be rewarded for it.

Millennials desire inclusiveness and collaboration. Climbing the corporate ladder doesn’t always matter to them, as long as they’re rewarded for their work. This could lead to a flattening of hierarchy – a corporate “lattice” instead of a ladder.

Some characteristics of millennials

  • Addicted to technology
  • Self-indulgent
  • Curious
  • 24/7 mentality

What millennials want in the workplace

  • Clear leadership and role models for two-way mentoring
  • Growth and continual learning
  • Flexibility – a rigid schedule will force them to exit
  • Collaboration and inclusion
  • A voice in decision-making
  • Recognition and reward

Bookending these three generations are the veterans, those born before 1946, and Generation Z, those just entering the workplace. That makes five generational groups with various life experiences and perspectives influencing the workplace.

These generational distinctions are a good place to start, but don’t pigeonhole people just because they’re of a certain generation. There are “cuspers” meaning they were born on the cusp – within a few years of the start of a new generation. They may have tendencies of both groups. Ultimately, it’s important to treat each person as an individual.

A multigenerational workforce can be an asset to a business, offering diversity and a breadth of experience to get the job done. Finding the right balance and managing your team’s talents can take time. But, it’s worth it when you get it right.


Register for the Fridays with Vistage webinar “The New Multi-Generational Workforce.”

Category: Talent Management

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Bonnie Monych About the Author: Bonnie Monych

Bonnie D. Monych has more than 25 years’ experience in human capital forensics, strategic planning, leadership development, organization design and development, corporate training, coaching and mentoring. She is an Insperity Performance Spec…

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