Do you know and understand the three main generational groups in the United States workforce? Here’s an overview for quick reference:
Current Population: 75 million1
Agents of social change
Baby boomers have often been characterized by the significant social changes they have created. For example, the period of the 1960s was a time of great political and social change in government. In contrast to WWII, where the country rallied around the war effort, baby boomers led the protest against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War on many college campuses in the late 1960s and early 70s.
In the 60s, the baby boomers were quickly labeled as nonconformists due to their unconventional causes. Nonconformists were known for going against social norms, and some of their actions included a liberal expression of their identity, experimentation with drugs, the renewed interest in women’s rights, recognition of environmental concerns.
Current Population: 66 million1
Sometimes referred to as the “lost” generation, this was the first generation of “latchkey” kids, exposed to lots of daycare and divorce. Known as the generation with the lowest voting participation rate of any generation, Gen Xers were quoted by Newsweek as “the generation that dropped out without ever turning on the news or tuning into the social issues around them.”
Gen X is often characterized by high levels of skepticism, “what’s in it for me” attitudes and a reputation for some of the worst music to ever gain popularity. Now, moving into adulthood William Morrow (Generations) cited the childhood divorce of many Gen Xers as “one of the most decisive experiences influencing how Gen Xers will shape their own families”.
Gen Xers are arguably the best-educated generation with 29% obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher (6% higher than the previous cohort). And, with that education and a growing maturity, they are starting to form families with a higher level of caution and pragmatism than their parents demonstrated. Concerns run high over avoiding broken homes, kids growing up without a parent around and financial planning.
Current Population: 75 million1
Growing in number
The millennials, also known as Generation Y, represent the largest cohort since the Baby Boomers. And this group continues a net expansion, due to young immigrants adding to their numbers. In fact, as of 2015, Millennials surpassed the Baby Boomers in number.
Gen Y kids are known as incredibly sophisticated, technology wise, immune to most traditional marketing and sales pitches…as they not only grew up with it all, they’ve seen it all and been exposed to it all since early childhood.
Gen Y members are much more racially and ethnically diverse and they are much more segmented as an audience aided by the rapid expansion in Cable TV channels, satellite radio, the Internet, e-zines, etc.
Gen Y are less brand loyal and the speed of the Internet has led the cohort to be similarly flexible and changing in its fashion, style consciousness and where and how it is communicated with.
Gen Y kids often raised in dual income or single parent families have been more involved in family purchases…everything from groceries to new cars. One in nine Gen Yers has a credit card co-signed by a parent.
Today’s workforce is more diverse than ever before. The leaders and managers who understand these generational distinctions will be best equipped to lead and manage their teams toward success.
- Pew Research Center tabulations of U.S. Census Bureau population projections released December 2014 and 2015 population estimates http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/25/millennials-overtake-baby-boomers/