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Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace - HRDQ

Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace

There are approximately five generations currently employed in today’s workforce. Each has its own set of beliefs, experiences, and values—some of which match, others clashing. Understanding generational differences in the workplace is imperative for promoting teamwork and diversity within your organization.

HRDQ offers a customizable course on Understanding Generational Differences that helps bridge age gaps in businesses and organizations.

Why Learn About Generational Differences?

Not having an awareness of generational differences can cause tension and conflict between employees of varying ages. However, learning more about the unique experiences each generation has faced can reveal why they have particular views and expectations of the workplace. When every team member shares a common knowledge regarding each generation, they can learn to respect each other’s differences and foster positive communication.

The Five Generations

Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace | HRDQ Blog

Learn more about each generation that currently makes up the workforce.

Traditionalists / the Silent Generation

Those who are part of the Traditionalist or Silent Generation were born between 1925 and 1945. They grew up in particularly hard times during the Great Depression and World War II, which contributes largely to their strict values surrounding the workplace.

While this generation is on its way out of the workforce, they played a key role in the development of many companies and industries. Many Traditionalists have worked with the same company their entire life.

Some common characteristics of the Silent Generation in the workplace include:

  • Strong work ethic
  • Highly respectful of authority
  • Value conformity
  • Loyal

Baby Boomers

Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace | HRDQ Blog

Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. Until the millennial generation, they were the largest generational group in the history of the U.S. Because of this, they played a big role in the economy and were often the key demographic targeted in business strategies. They value high-quality goods and excellent service. This generation of workers have been taught to idolize the American Dream, but due to their large population, they constantly had to compete against many others to obtain the Dream.

Some common characteristics of Baby Boomers in the workplace include:

  • Competitive
  • Goal-oriented
  • Independent
  • Value excellence

Generation X

Those considered part of Generation X were born between 1965 and 1980. The economy took a downward turn in the 80s, and many of these individuals watched their parents struggle financially, bouncing between jobs. Oftentimes, both parents were employed, leaving Gen X children home by themselves more frequently than not. They have a “work to live” mentally, highly valuing life outside of the workplace.

Some common characteristics of Generation X in the workplace include:

  • Self-sufficient
  • Resourceful
  • Adaptable
  • Care less about loyalty

Generation Y / Millennials

Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace | HRDQ Blog

Generation Y, more commonly known as Millennials, were born between 1981 and 1996. They currently make up the largest portion of today’s workforce. They’ve grown up in a time of advanced technology, and their parents worked hard to provide them with a comfortable lifestyle, carefully avoiding the mistakes of the previous generation. They have always been surrounded by their families and mentors and often participated in a variety of group activities growing up. These experiences have greatly impacted what they value within the workplace.

Some common characteristics of Generation Y in the workplace include:

  • Team-oriented
  • Achievement-oriented
  • Value a flexible work/life balance
  • Value overall company culture above salary

Generation Z

Generation Z is comprised of individuals born between 1997 and 2012. They have been shaped by an ever-changing world of technology, politics, and norms. People in this generation come from a variety of “non-traditional” households, including single-parent and multi-racial homes. Their families often faced financial struggles and economic struggles, leading them to develop a need for stability.

Due to their strong political beliefs and focus on “who they are,” they take time to make very informed decisions that align with their sense of self. Being born into a time of such technological dependence, they find less value in face-to-face interactions and care greatly for brand awareness and image.

Some common characteristics of Generation Z in the workplace include:

Bridge the Age Gap in Your Workplace with HRDQ

Understanding generational differences in the workplace is crucial to promoting teamwork and diversity. If you’d like to get started bridging the age gap in your organization, view the HRDQ Understanding Generational Differences course today! Our customizable training will equip you with the tools you need to promote and encourage inclusion within your team and throughout your business.

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.