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Who are Generations X, Y, and Z and Why Should Employers Care?

by Nancy Owen, PHR

Most dictionaries define a generation as “a group of people born and living around the same time as each other”. Not surprisingly, people of the same generation often have similar characteristics and values. Interestingly enough, one generation can be very different from another.

Of the six generations currently living, three are considered working generations. Employers would do well to have a good understanding of each generation’s characteristics. Why? Because if you know what motivates your employees, you will be better equipped to engage them. One way to figure that out is to have a general idea of their likes, dislikes and habits.

Most leaders struggle with the different needs and styles that each generation brings to the table. How do you engage the different generations with their different characteristics and bring them together to work in a cohesive team?

Companies that have figured out how to leverage each generation’s strengths within a team environment generally have employees that are motivated and successful in their jobs.  Successful organizations embrace the diversity in each generation. You can do the same by fostering an environment that encourages employees to participate and collaborate. Support team work by setting up team building events. Focus on the positive attributes of the team’s diverse experiences and skill sets.

At the end of the day, employees want to feel valued in their jobs and every generation has something unique and valuable to add.  To help you better understand each group, here are all six generations and the traits that tend to characterize them:

GI Generation – Born between 1901 and 1926, this group is no longer working, but you may recognize this description in a family member. They are considered to be assertive doers with a strong sense of teamwork, duty to their country, community-minded and thrifty. They grew up in an age without modern conveniences like TV or most appliances we use today, and they are grateful for and appreciate them now.

Mature/Silent – Born between 1927 and 1945, this is considered the Korean and Vietnam War Generation. They grew up in a time of rock and roll, when women stayed in the home and took care of the children and secured the household while the husband went to work. However, some women in this generation did work in positions like teachers and nurses. They listened to big band and swing music and were big readers, including the daily newspaper.

Baby Boomers – Born between 1946 and 1964, right after World War II ended, baby boomers have strong work ethics and are in demand today by employers for that reason. This generation is independent and sure of themselves. They like friendly competition and work well in a team environment. They are very resourceful, disciplined and goal minded.

Generation X – Sometimes referred to as “post boomers”, these were born between 1965 and 1981. There are 45 million of them.  This group looks for flexible work environments. They do not think about retirement the way their parents did. They shop on-line and were considered latch-key kids. They grew up with their parents working and many came from a divorced family. They have a strong desire to succeed by making a contribution. They are committed to the company not the career, but at the same time they are self-absorbed and prone to distrust organizations. They are sometimes thought of as shallow because they were raised by the TV and movies while their parents worked. They are cautious, skeptical, and unimpressed by people in a position of authority. They rely heavily upon themselves.

Generation Y / Millennial’s – Born between 1981 and 2000, this group respects authority. They are very organized and schedule everything. They grew up on computers and never knew how to live any other way. They are very tech savvy and get most of their information from the internet. They prefer to work in teams rather than as individual contributors. They work to live rather than living to work. They like a laid-back environment.

Generation Z – Also called the Boomlets, this group was born from the mid-1990s to the late 2000s, so the majority of this generation is just entering the workforce.  This generation values their privacy. Generation Z has grown up in a world of financial insecurity and tend to be entrepreneurial. They are the most technically competent and have proven to be adept multi-taskers.

If you are an employer with any HR concerns or have any questions about ZORN and the services we offer, please give us a call at (800) 224-7951.