Generational Differences in the Workplace [Infographic]


For the first time in history, there are five generations in the workplace. They are:

  • Traditionalists—born 1925 to 1945
  • Baby Boomers—born 1946 to 1964
  • Generation X—born 1965 to 1980
  • Millennials—born 1981 to 2000
  • Generation Z—born 2001 to 2020

What kinds of challenges does this present for today’s employers? How do generational workforce differences affect our ability to manage people effectively? And what are the traits, beliefs, and life experiences that mark each generation, influencing how they work, communicate, and respond to change?

That’s precisely what this infographic is about. We spoke with Dr. Bea Bourne, DM, faculty member in the School of Business and Information Technology at Purdue University Global. Dr. Bourne is an expert on generational differences and generational response to organizational change. In this infographic, she shares her research regarding:

  • How today’s talent stacks up by generation, including their defining values, beliefs, and worldviews
  • The significant historical events that shaped each generation
  • How to best motivate and manage workers from each generation

With this information, managers and HR executives can develop multigenerational strategies in recruitment, orientation, talent management, retention, and succession planning.

Learn how to manage different generations at work.

Infographic about generational workforce differences. Text version available below infographic.

Generational Differences in the Workplace Content

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to today’s workforce—five generations of workers means five approaches to work. Learn how to adjust to a multigenerational workforce.

  • Traditionalists: 2% (1925-1945)
  • Baby Boomers: 25% (1946-1964)
  • Generation X: 33% (1965-1980)
  • Generation Y: 35% (1981-2000)
  • Generation Z: 5% (2001-2020)

Traditionalists

Born 1925–1945

Dependable, straightforward, tactful, loyal

Shaped by: The Great Depression, World War II, radio and movies

Motivated by: Respect, recognition, providing long-term value to the company

Communication style: Personal touch, handwritten notes instead of email

Worldview: Obedience over individualism; age equals seniority; advancing through the hierarchy

Employers should: Provide satisfying work and opportunities to contribute; emphasize stability

Baby Boomers

Born 1946–1964

Optimistic, competitive, workaholic, team-oriented

Shaped by: The Vietnam War, civil rights movement, Watergate

Motivated by: Company loyalty, teamwork, duty

Communication style: Whatever is most efficient, including phone calls and face to face

Worldview: Achievement comes after paying one’s dues; sacrifice for success

Employers should: Provide them with specific goals and deadlines; put them in mentor roles; offer coaching-style feedback

Stats:

  • (5) 65% of baby boomers plan to work past age 65
  • (6) 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age every day

Generation X

Born 1965–1980

Flexible, informal, skeptical, independent

Shaped by: The AIDs epidemic, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dot-com boom

Motivated by: Diversity, work-life balance, their personal-professional interests rather than the company's interests

Communication style: Whatever is most efficient, including phone calls and face to face

Worldview: Favoring diversity; quick to move on if their employer fails to meet their needs; resistant to change at work if it affects their personal lives

Employers should: Give them immediate feedback; provide flexible work arrangements and work-life balance; extend opportunities for personal development

Stats:

  • (7) Gen Xers make up the highest percentage of startup founders at 55%
  • (8) Gen Xers will outnumber baby boomers by 2028

Millennials

Born 1981–2000

Competitive, civic-minded, open-minded on diversity, achievement-oriented

Shaped by: Columbine, 9/11, the internet

Motivated by: Responsibility, the quality of their manager, unique work experiences

Communication style: IMs, texts, and email

Worldview: Seeking challenge, growth, and development; a fun work life and work-life balance; likely to leave an organization if they don't like change

Employers should: Get to know them personally; manage by results; be flexible on their schedule and work assignments; provide immediate feedback

Stats:

  • (9) By 2025, millennials will comprise 75% of the global workforce
  • (10) About 15% of millennials age 25–35 live at home with their parents

Generation Z

Born 2001–2020

Global, entrepreneurial, progressive, less focused

Shaped by: Life after 9/11, the Great Recession, access to technology from a young age

Motivated by: Diversity, personalization, individuality, creativity

Communication style: IMs, texts, social media

Worldview: Self-identifying as digital device addicts; valuing independence and individuality; preferring to work with millennial managers, innovative coworkers, and new technologies

Employers should: Offer opportunities to work on multiple projects at the same time; provide work-life balance; allow them to be self-directed and independent

Stats:

  • (11) 40% of Gen Z wants to interact with their boss daily or several times each day
  • (12) 84% of Gen Z expects their employer to provide formal training

References:

  1. Bea Bourne, “Phenomenological Study of Generational Response to Organizational Change” (doctoral dissertation, University of Phoenix, 2009).
  2. “Labor Force Composition by Generation” infographic, Pew Research Center.
  3. “9 Baby-Boomer Statistics That Will Blow You Away,” The Motley Fool.
  4. “Baby Boomers Retire,” Pew Research Center.
  5. “Different Motivations for Different Generations of Workers: Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z,” Inc.
  6. “Millennials projected to overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation,” Pew Research Center.
  7. “Big demands and high expectations: The Deloitte millennial survey,” Deloitte.
  8. “It’s becoming more common for young adults to live at home – and for longer stretches,” Pew Research Center.
  9. “How to Easily Engage Gen Z Employees in the Workplace,” The Center for Generational Kinetics.
  10. “Accenture Strategy: Gen Z Rising,” Accenture Strategy.