I spent half of my work day at a training session for managers. It was organized well and the speaker was very engaging. The most interesting part of the session was about the various generations: The Silent Generation (Great Depression era), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1960s-1980), and The Millennials, (1980s-2000s). The cultural differences between generations is both striking and fascinating to me, especially the differences between Gen X and Millennials. There are roughly 80 million people in the Baby Boomer generation and about 78 million Millennials and only 46 million in Gen X, my generation. The impact that will have on our workforce will be noticeable. As the Baby Boomers retire, not only will the age demographics of our workforce become quite a bit younger, but the characteristics and values will have a major shift. There is a vast difference between Generation X and Millennials. Gen Xers were the “latch-key” kids, growing up in an age of two working parents or single parent households as divorce became common. Therefore, they are typically highly independent, adaptable and work to live. Conversely, Millennials grew up with “helicopter” parents and team environments and constant feedback or recognition. Now, as these two generations merge in the work force, there will be hurdles to overcome as far as work expectations. One group likes autonomy, the other teamwork. One needs regular feedback and support, the other is independent.
All of this fascinates me. Partly because I’m simply intrigued by human interactions and social dynamics, but also because I can already see some of this disparity happening at work. The student workers I hire fall squarely in the Millennial generation. It’s sometimes hard for me to understand their need for, what seems to me, hand holding. In my generation, we simply figured things out and did what needed to be done. But that’s not their experience. And that’s good to know. It may not be easy, but understanding the differences will help in figuring out how to work well together. I’m thankful I was able to go to the training today.