Corporate Eye

The Evolving Corporate Demographics

The terms Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and now the Millennials have become part of the business lexicon. The mix of these four generations in the workplace will continue to have profound corporate implications.

Here is how the four generational groups are typically defined —

  • Silent Generation (individuals born between 1925-1942)
  • Baby Boomer Generation (individuals born between 1943-1960) 78 million
  • Generation X (individuals born between 1961-1976) 37 million
  • Generation Y (Echo Boomers 1977) (Millennials 1982) individuals born between 1977-Now 80 million


Take a look at the work ethic of each generation —

Generational Snapshot Work Ethic

Traditionalists or Veterans Believed they’d work for the same company their entire career.
Baby Boomers “Live to work” and believe in putting in face time at the office.
Gen Xers “Work to live” and believe that work should not define their lives.
Gen Y’s or Millennials Their motto: “Work my way.” Devoted to their own careers, not to their companies.

(Adapted from Talking About My Generation)

and you will understand why companies are concerned about communication to and collaboration among such diverse work styles.

I can relate to these changes. In my first job, I would leave at 5PM and was characterized as a “9-5 guy”. Over the years I started work at 7AM and stayed at the office until after 6PM. Then there was an article in Fortune magazine about a guy who bought an old car and left it in the parking lot so his boss would think he was always at the office. Bravo to the new generation of workers who value their personal time and don’t put up with selling their lives to the company. As they observed their parents dedicating their lives to their jobs only to face multiple downsizings, their work values were formed.

Managing The Newer Workers

  • Turn bureaucracy on its head. Younger workers want things to happen fast and aren’t impressed by titles. I couldn’t agree more “command and control” style leadership is very “old economy”.
  • Communicate often and use new technology. Get out of your office and be seen by your people. This cuts across all generations and is just effective leadership
  • Make work flexible in terms of work locations if possible and scheduling
  • Since their personal life is, offer a variety of work/life benefits.

Why focus on generation x and generation y as a competitive advantage?

“Technology is the differentiator between the leadership generation (Baby Boomers) and Gen X/ Gen Y. For most Baby Boomers, technology is a tool or toy. For Gen X and particularly Gen Y, technology is simply an extension of who they are – so working any time, any place is as natural as working in a traditional office. To engage Gen X and Y in a way that is productive for all generations, we need to recognize and respond to these fundamental differences and leverage them to benefit all workers in the organization.”

W. Stanton Smith, National Director-Next Generation Initiatives, Deloitte

Need more information about managing the generations at work? Visit the Sloan Work and Family Research Network, an outstanding site.

You might also be interested in a video of a US based broadcast from The 60 minutes program on the new generation of workers — 60 Minutes

Finally, thanks to a new visual search engine, www.searchme.com, here is a montage of generations at work websites.

Looks like the “9 to 5 guy” is now in vogue.

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Ed Konczal has an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business (with distinction). He has spent the last 10 years as an executive consultant focusing on human resources, leadership, market research, and business planning. Ed has over 10 years of top-level experience from AT&T in the areas of new ventures and business planning. He is co-author of the book "Simple Stories for Leadership Insight," published by University Press of America.
 
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