Your Quick Guide to Mastering Millennials and More

Understanding what motivates millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers, and other generational groups is the first step to creating a thriving workforce. Is your enterprise business ready for a crash course in motivating a team with this kind of diversity?

Then let's begin!

First, Some Guideposts

You can't tell the players without a program, a sentiment that holds for workplace generations. So, if you're confused about who fits where here's a rundown:

  • Traditionalists: born 1927 to 1946
  • Baby Boomers: born 1947 to 1964
  • Generation X: born 1965 to 1980
  • Millennials: born 1981 to 2000
  • Generation Z: born 2001 to 2020

The Millennial Myth

We'll tackle Millennial first as they take up the lion's share of the pool of new employees to the workplace. What you may think or have heard about this group that "doesn't work as hard as its predecessors" or "expects too much from the get-go" is not the norm—but it is complicated.

In 5 Truths About Millennials in the Workplace, we learn that seemingly contradictory traits make this generational group uniquely qualified to take on the working world. They're hardworking and entitled, needy and independent, as this excerpt shows:

Millennials want to have a say and contribute their ideas. They resist doing repetitive or boring work. They want to have a life outside of work and expect enough flexibility to allow them to fulfill both their personal and professional commitments. But entitled doesn't mean lazy. Millennials work long hours, don't expect work to stop when they leave the office, and are quite motivated.

Here are some key things you can do to motivate Millennials in your organization:

  • Minimize repetitive work and encourage them to contribute their ideas.
  • Put their willingness to work long hours to work—but don't exploit them.
  • Provide them with support and feedback on how they're doing.
  • Understand how much they value work while having a life outside it.

Boom Boom Boomers

The drumbeat of data and sheer numbers of Baby Boomers has impacted the workforce over the past several decades. But while this group begins the slow march to traditional or early retirement, they still have an impact.

What you need to understand about this group is that what made them boomers in the first place also made them uniquely qualified to succeed, as explained in Baby Boomers in the workplace:

In the early years of the boom, schools were overcrowded, colleges didn't have enough seats, and competition for starting jobs was intense. As a result, the young Baby Boomers learned to compete for resources and success.

This drive created a workforce that's:

  • Goal-focused and motivated to accomplish whatever they've set out to do.
  • Devoted and willing to sacrifice in other areas to achieve success at work.
  • Independent and unafraid to challenge established norms and practices.
  • Competitive, with a drive to succeed at all costs.

Millennials and Boomers

Experts correctly predicted that Millennials would make up half the generational workforce by 2020, edging Boomers in numbers after decades of dominance. As you might expect, differences between the groups created an interesting dynamic.

A key differentiator is a work-life balance. In Boomers & Millennials in the workplacewe learn that "Millennials see work as an integrated part of life, not a separate activity that needs balance with the rest of life."

In an ironic twist, the piece points out that "Millennials saw their Boomer parents working long hours and sacrificing time with their families for their careers.

The young adults in this generation realize that work will often bleed over into their personal lives, and as a result, Millennials value a holistic work environment that allows them to better integrate their work and their personal lives."

Socializing with fellow employees, fulfilling work, and freedom are important to Millennials. This isn't the case with Boomers, who prefer to separate their pursuits at work and life at home.

The X Factor

Often referred to as the 'Lost Generation' or 'Middle Child' generation, Generation X, while smaller in numbers, is still a force to be reckoned with in the workplace—not that they would admit it.

In Why You Can't Afford to Ignore Generation X in the workplace Anymore, we learn that "Gen X toils away with little fanfare." The piece speculates that the monotony of middle age while caring for young children and aging parents may have something to do with this. But ignoring this group in the workplace, especially now, could come back to bite you, as the piece points out:

During the Great Resignation, businesses can't afford to ignore anyone. It's time to take another look at Generation X. Although Gen X has been referred to as slackers known for their love of flannel, sipping lattes, and worshipping at the altar

of alternative rock like Nirvana, they have proven themselves. They are leading innovation and have demonstrated loyalty and an unmatched work ethic.

The Fringe Generations

Traditionalists and Generation Z are wrapping up or just beginning their workplace journey. While they may not make up a large portion of your organization, they have or will soon make an impact.