It’s impossible to open a newspaper or browse the business headlines without hearing about Boomers, Millennials, or the up-and-coming Generation Z.
Allwork.Space regularly reports on generational trends and research. With up to five generations now working together, it’s important to understand the opportunities and challenges of multi-generational workplaces to help us build happy, healthy, and inclusive environments for the future of work.
Here we’ve collated some classic characteristics of the 5 latest generations, starting with the early Traditionalists and finishing with the current Generation Z.
Bear in mind that apart from Baby Boomers, there is no exact definition of the year each generation starts and ends. For the purpose of this article, we’ve used definitions provided by Pew Research.
Traditionalists: Born 1928-1945
The ‘Traditionalists’, also known as the ‘Silent Generation’ and the ‘Greatest Generation’, were born and raised in turbulent times. Most experienced World War II as well as extreme economic and political uncertainty, especially during the Great Depression. This generation is typically hard working and thrifty, and often associated with loyalty, conformity, and respect for authority.
Common characteristics of Traditionalists:
- The ‘make do and mend’ generation are known for patriotism, teamwork, and task-orientation. They respect authority and simply get on with the job.
- Having grown up during lean times, this generation considers work a privilege and were loyal employees with a ‘job for life’ mentality. In fact some are still working today.
- Traditionalists didn’t have the Internet, smartphones, or social media. Instead, they communicated face-to-face or over the phone, which enabled them to develop strong one-on-one interpersonal skills — something that may be lacking in the modern workplace.
Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964
‘Baby Boomers’, also known as ‘Boomers’ or the ‘Woodstock Generation’, were born after WWII and up to the mid 1960s. In the post-WWII years, as nations slowly recovered from economic hardship, a sharp increase in births led to a generation of ‘boomers’ experiencing economic recovery, growth and a level of prosperity. Boomers are typically well-educated, hard-working and are motivated by position, perks and prestige.
Common characteristics of Baby Boomers:
- Baby Boomers are committed. In fact, the majority of Baby Boomers are still in the workforce and they’re a competitive bunch who focus on climbing the corporate ladder.
- They grew up at a time when television was expanding fast, which changed their lifestyles and influenced the way they view and connect with the world.
- They’re considered disciplined and self-sufficient. They have a strong team ethic and thrive in community environments.
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Generation X: Born 1965-1980
Following the baby boom, ‘Generation X’ or ‘Gen X’ arrived. Older GenX-ers experienced influential global events such as The Vietnam War, the Cold War, and the Thatcher-era government in the UK. This group grew up in an age of two-income families with a high number of women joining the workforce. They are often seen as independent, resourceful and self-sufficient. Observers claim that Gen X is more open to diversity and cultural differences than previous generations.
Common characteristics of Generation X:
- Gen X understands the importance of technology. They grew up as the computer revolution was taking hold, which automated workplace tasks and introduced new skills that would greatly impact later generations.
- This generation is often referred to as the ‘lost’ or ‘latchkey’ generation, due to high divorce rates and/or having both parents at work.
- Members of Gen X are typically well-educated. They are considered logical and good problem-solvers.
Millennials: Born 1981-1996
‘Millennials’ are sometimes also known as ‘Generation Y’. The earliest members of this demographic grew up at a time when households began introducing personal computers, while the youngest arrived when home computing and office technology was well established and experiencing rapid development (for instance, Microsoft released Windows XP in 2001). Millennials are often associated with a tech-savvy lifestyle, always-on culture and a desire for work-life balance.
Common characteristics of Millennials:
- Born into an era of economic prosperity, Millennials have a poor reputation. They are the so-called ‘me generation’ who are often classed as idealistic and self-absorbed.
- Millennials have grown up with a huge range of media – TV, radio, and the Internet – which has shaped their view of the world. They are known for being curious and questioning authority.
- Millennials came of age during the Internet explosion. They are digitally savvy and see technology as a way to enjoy more work/life balance. Many Millennials are digital nomads and blend running a business with travel.
Generation Z: Born 1997-Present
Born after the Millennials, the generation that is currently being born is the ‘Cyber Generation’ or ‘iGen’, also known as ‘Generation Z’ or ‘Gen Z’. This young demographic is being born into an age of high-tech communication, dominated by multiple mobile devices, social media, and constant wireless connectivity. The oldest of Gen Z have graduated from higher education and are already well ensconced in the workforce. They are growing up in an ‘always on’ era, where shopping via smartphone and looking up reviews on social media is the norm.
Common characteristics of Gen Z:
- Gen Z is “the most racially and ethnically diverse generation we have seen”, according to Pew Research. Members of this demographic typically value individual expression and want purpose in their work.
- They grew up in the ‘sharing economy’ and for them, consumption is more about access than possession.
- They have never seen the world without the Internet. They text, chat and message and adapt to new technologies quickly. They are digital natives, and it shows.
- Move Over, Millennials: How Gen Z’s Expectations will Change the Workplace
- Future of Work: How to Attract Gen Z to the Workplace
- How Millennial Parents are Shaping the Future of the Flexible Workplace
- 7 Ways Tech-Savvy Millennials are Changing the Way We Work
How many generations do you have in your workspace? Do these traits match up to the people? Let us know.