Hess Associates

Who are the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y?

People love to classify – hence the classification of all of us into 4 main groups:
1. The Traditional Generation (born pre-1945),
2. Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964),
3. Generation X (born 1965-1980 the generation born after the Western Post–World War II baby boom), and
4. Generation Y, also known as Millenials ( born late seventies or early 1980s to early 2000s), with some overlap, depending on the source.

What are the characteristics of these 4 groups of people, especially in terms of the workplace?

1 and 2) The Traditionals and the Boomers are similar – much more used to regular hours, working overtime if necessary, and tend to see working many hours as necessary for success. They generally are less attuned to new technology (not a generality of course), and truly prefer face to face communication. They like to learn via Power Point presentations and handbooks, in a classroom setting. They also have tended to be loyal to their employers.
They represent 20% of the North American public, and have a significant impact on the economy. Thus, baby boomers are often the focus of marketing campaigns and business plans. As Boomers became teens and adult, they tended to think of themselves as a special generation, unlike any before, and certainly were the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation up to that time. It was they who began to define the world in terms of generations (Wikipedia).

3) Generation Xers are generally highly educated, active, balanced, happy and family oriented. They do like flexibility in at-work work hours, preferring some telecommuting/ working offsite hours, like on-line courses, and prefer a more balanced lifestyle.
This is a generation whose worldview is based on change, on the need to combat corruption, dictatorships, abuse, AIDS, a generation in search of human dignity and individual freedom, the need for stability, love, tolerance, and human rights for all
Gen Xers are often called the MTV Generation. They experienced the emergence of music videos, new wave music, electronic music, synthpop, glam rock, heavy metal and the spin-off glam metal, punk rock and the spin-off pop punk, alternative rock, grunge, and hip hop(Wikipedia).
They tend to be very technology literate, many of them equal in this capacity to the digital natives, Gen Y. Of course they can text but will prefer email or even the phone. They are more likely to be skeptical and independent-minded than the Boomers, but often have found it necessary to adapt to the Boomers as there is double the number of them. They often still feel they have to fight to have a voice, to make an impact, to earn a seat at the table of power and are fed up with being “stuck in the middle between older workers who refuse to retire and younger ones who are treated far better than they ever were.

4) Generation Y – Millenials – the digital natives, sometimes called the Me Me Me generation, are very focused on self, do not like regular hours, totally believe being treated meritocratically, wanting fast promotions, totally willing to jump from place to place. They totally like to learn on line, blog, use every latest device and communicate by text and messaging above all else, and very mobile device oriented. If they finish their work in 3 hours, they see no reason why they should not go home. They were raised to
believe that their opinions are important and they have an expectation to have a stake in all outcomes.
To quote Time: “Gen Y will also reshape the workplace—sooner than later, if they have their way. Among other characteristics that stand out, millennials, who have come of age with the text message and social media, are an impatient bunch: They’re hyper-connected, tech savvy, entrepreneurial, and collaborative. They also favor fast-paced work environments, want quick promotions, and aren’t fans of traditional office rules and hierarchies.
Right now, there are about 80 million millennials and 76 million boomers in America”

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