Generations in the Workplace


There is a great deal of talk about the role of generational experience and what expectations are when companies look to recruit, hire, onboard and manage new employees. At a time where there are as many as five different generations in the workplace for the first time history, that is understandable.

At present, the five generations in the workplace include:

  • 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 amount of technological development that has happened between the birth of the first traditionalists and Gen Z was so vast that it has created two entirely different life experiences. When Baby Boomers first got a job, a computer at each desk wasn’t commonplace, whereas Millennials and Gen Z have never known a world without one.

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This results in different expectations when it comes to what the employee experience looks like and what it takes to retain each worker. Now, add in a pandemic and that picture shifts yet again as each generation experiences this life altering time differently. 

As you look toward understanding the generational differences in the workforce you’ll want to understand the demographics of the labor pool and how those generations view the future, the work they do today and how they understand their colleagues. Here are some important statistics to consider.

By 2025, Millennials Will Make-up 75% of the Global Workforce

By far the largest generation in the mix, Millennials have been at the center of the evolution of the employee experience in recent years. This is important to note at such a pivotal time, because as we adjust to what’s commonly called a “new normal” in post pandemic life, it’s this generation that is going to play a big part in shaping it. About 25% of younger Millennials (25-30) reported to Deloitte last year that they had been laid off or placed on unpaid leave from their jobs. Another 27% reported they were working fewer hours.

Their experiences during this crisis, however, have not changed their stance on what they expect from employers in terms of social issues such as climate change, income inequality, public health and diversity and inclusion. Among the issues, climate change was a top concern for both Millennials and Gen Z. Moving forward, companies will have to clearly state their core values around these issues and develop policies and practices that align with those values.

Half of Millennials and Gen Z are Concerned About Long-Term Finances

For all the talk of younger generations blowing money on fancy coffee and avocado toast, the reality doesn’t quite align. These generations are remarkably concerned about their long-term financial health, potentially a byproduct of having experienced multiple economic crises early in life. The Deloitte survey revealed that 50% of people surveyed in these two groups foresee their financial situations worsening or stagnating in the next year. The majority of them are actively budgeting and have taken some measure to educate themselves on financial best practices in an effort to make informed decisions. A majority have set financial goals for the long term future.

READ: Pandemic Sparks Surge in 401(k) Interest and Activity

As employers, it’s a good time to expand your benefit offerings around retirement savings, healthcare cost planning and money management coaching. Millennials and Gen Z will highly value companies that can help them develop a sense of security around their long-term financial futures.

A Third of  Gen Z Views the Impact of the Pandemic More Negatively Than Other Generations

Outside of the human cost of the pandemic, there have been some interesting, not altogether bad things to emerge from it. Remote work is now a reality for a greater number of workers than ever before and it’s been proven that this shift has not come at a detriment to productivity. People are saving more money and becoming more active in caring for their mental and physical health.

But for Gen Z, the pandemic has come at an important developmental period in their lives, forcing them into isolation during a period where making new social connections and transitioning into adult life should be common. The situation has drastically altered their lives, changing the way they view money, relationships, family, health and education.

They’ve also been the most adversely affected by the pandemic in terms of finances. Almost one-third of Gen Z lost a job during the crisis, compared to 19% of Millennials, 18% of Gen X and 13% of Baby Boomers. This is due to their disproportionate representation in industries such as hospitality and retail.

The rise in Gen Z unemployment will have a similar and possibly more severe impact on their transition to adulthood than was the case for Millennials in the previous recession. This delay in lifetime earnings has a huge impact on their views of the workplace and, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Band of New York, damages their lifetime earnings potential as their lack of employment damages their ability to develop on-the-job skills. While 87% of Gen Z craves financial independence, it appears it may have to wait.

Millions More Boomers Retiring Than Expected, Freelancing If They Can’t

The number of Baby Boomers entering retirement is significant each year, but in 2020, that number ballooned more than usual, exceeding projected numbers by more than 3 million in third quarter alone, according to the Pew Research Center.

It’s suspected that job losses associated with the pandemic have contributed to the jump in Boomer retirements. While Boomers have seen more social and political change in their lifetimes than other generations, this crisis is unique in that it presents a grave risk to their health. Many were already headed toward retirement and as a result, many have made the decision to go down that path a bit earlier than expected.

For Boomers who are not financially able to retire yet, many are moving into freelance or consulting roles. As a consequence of age discrimination and the workplace becoming more reliant on new technology, many will find it difficult to find traditional work. Companies employing Boomer employees should engage them around their long-term plans to ensure the company is helping them achieve their goals, support their move toward retirement and ensure they have the tools and training necessary to succeed in a quickly evolving workplace.

Photo Courtesy of Stock Photo Secrets 

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