Defining the generations leads to management clues

While it’s dangerous to place employees in categories and then expect them always to act the same as other employees within their group, it is necessary to look at generational differences to understand why different employees approach their jobs differently from others or have different motivators.

"Although these descriptions are accurate, remember that people born near the end or the beginning of a particular generational group can exhibit characteristics of the group just following their birthday or just preceding it, says Sue Romero, owner of Susan Romero Consulting, an Englewood, CO-based human resources consulting firm.

"You also have to take into consideration the employee’s cultural background since the events that affected people growing up in the United States may not have been occurring in other countries," she adds.

Veterans

People born between 1922 and 1943 witnessed the 1929 stock market crash, the Great Depression, Roosevelt’s New Deal, World War II, and the Korean War. They were accustomed to working in organizations in which the executives did the thinking and the employees followed directions, says Romero. "This group values loyalty, dedication, sacrifice, hard work, rules, and respect for authority and seniority," she adds.

Baby Boomers

People who grew up between 1943 and 1960 grew up in positive times. The economy was expanding and baby boomers received a lot of attention from their parents, says Romero. This is the first generation that was evaluated on how it interacted with others, she adds. Baby boomer values include optimism, team playing, personal gratification, health, wellness, and work contribution, she adds.

Generation X

Children who were born between 1960 and 1980 experienced Arab terrorists at the Munich Olympics, the Watergate scandal, massive layoffs in U.S. corporations, and Los Angeles riots over the Rodney King beating. "It’s not a surprise that this generation is pessimistic and skeptical of authority," says Romero. Because members of this generation often had two working parents, many of them were "latchkey" children and learned self-reliance, she says. "They also are seeking a sense of family and want a balance of work and family in their lives," she adds. "They value independence and don’t want to be closely managed," she says.

Nexters

People born after 1980 live in an age-diverse population that wants children to have every advantage, says Romero. "They are optimistic high-achievers who are street-smart and possess excellent social skills," she adds. "They combine the work ethic of veterans with the teamwork focus of baby boomers and the technological expertise of Gen-Xers," she says. Nexters are looking for clear expectations, discussions of personal career goals, gender blindness, team orientation, and training opportunities," she adds.