Understanding Your Multigenerational Workforce

Understanding Your Multigenerational Workforce

A group of happy executives looking at the camera

For the first time in history our workforce spans five generations: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers and Generations X, Y and Z. Each generation operates with distinctive communication styles, motivations, and definitions of work ethic. “Work smarter not harder” makes no sense to roughly half of today’s workforce. Understanding each generation, their perspectives, and how to connect with each will allow employers to adapt to the needs of a multigenerational workforce and will make you a better leader.

Thriving with a multigenerational workforce

Breakdown of workforce by generation:

Traditionalists (1925-1945) = 2%

Baby boomers (1946- 1964) = 25%

Generation X (1965-1980) = 33%

Generation Y (1981-2000) = 35%

Generation Z (2001-2020) = 5%


Traditionalists are described as reliable, strategic, simple, and insightful, oftentimes motivated by esteem, appreciation, and long-term contribution to the organization. They can be seen as having an “old-fashioned” approach to their work preferences, such as handwritten notes, obedience, and hierarchy of seniority. While Traditionalists only comprise 2% of today’s workforce, employers should still support the few who remain by providing stability and ample opportunities to contribute.

Baby boomers

Baby Boomers are described as confident, ambitious, hardworking, and collaborative as well as those who appreciate commitment, synergy, and responsibility. Baby Boomers oftentimes prefer efficient communications, typically phone calls and face-to-face interactions. They oftentimes follow the belief that years of service and sacrifice pave the path to success. To help Baby Boomers succeed, employers should create specific goals and deadlines, offer mentorships roles and take a coaching-style feedback approach.

Generation X

Generation X are described as adaptable, independent, casual, and dubious as well as those who value diversity, work-life balance, and their own interests before the business’ interests. Like Baby Boomers, they tend to prefer the most efficient communication style. Employers should understand Gen Xers are more prone to jump ship if you fail to meet their needs or implement changes that impact their personal life. To support them, provide real-time feedback, flexible work arrangements that favor work-life balance and develop personal development opportunities.

Fun fact: Gen Xers make up the highest percentage of startup founders at 55%

Generation Y

Generation Y, also known as Millennials, are described as ambitious, philanthropic, open- minded and data driven as well as those who value responsibility, quality managers and opportunities to explore all facets of their role. Millennials prefer digital communications, such as instant messaging, text, and email. They seek challenges that push them to grow and a fun work-life balance. As an employer, they thrive on building relationships, data-driven results and flexible work arrangements.

By 2025, millennials will comprise roughly 75% of the global workforce.

Generation Z

Generation Z are the newest additions to the workforce and are described as universal, innovative, and open-minded as well as those who value diversity, individuality, creativity, and personalization. Like Millennials, they favor digital communications with an emphasis on social media. GenZers are addicted to technology, new age concepts and innovation, so employers should offer multiple projects to increase collaboration and innovation, work-life balance, and opportunities to develop independence.

Understanding multigenerational workforces

As a leader of the multiple generations comprising today’s workforces, one needs to understand all employees bring valuable and diverse life experiences, perspectives, and views.

Here are four challenges multigenerational workforces must consider:

  1. Company Culture. Fostering a culture that values contributions and makes each member of your team feel valued and appreciated regardless of generation is critical. Happy hours and celebrating special occasions can offer opportunities for collaborative growth.
  2. Communication Style. Each generation has preferred a communication style, great leaders communicate in each preferred communication style. For example, if a Millennial were to communicate with a Baby Boomer, the Millennial should respect the Baby Boomer’s communication preference of phone or face-to-face interaction.
  3. Negative Stereotypes. Each generation has stereotypes. A strong leader makes a conscious effort proactively address any generational gaps or disruptions.
  4. Cultural Expectations. Work has evolved into layers of flexible options. Today, industry productivity isn’t always produced in a traditional setting.

From development and training to job descriptions and performance reviews, AccessPoint’s HR management team can provide the support, resources, and tools you need to successfully manage a multigenerational workforce.  Contact us to learn more.

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