Generational differences impact workplaces and talent management as various generations contend with the values and working styles of co-workers both younger and older. Many organizations are currently struggling to attract and retain young talent, who may not be motivated by the same values as their older supervisors. Belle Curve spoke with generations expert, Kristin Scroggins of GenWhy about the current living and working generations and micro-generations in America.
Kristin started trying to understand generational differences while working with Millennials as a college professor. She has great admiration for Gen Y and Millennials because of their ability to pivot and flex. Kristin herself is of Generation X, and her humor and candor about this subject are infectious.
Kristin has worked with clients including NASA and Missile Defense Agency to help them understand how to attract, understand, and retain young talent, and she jokingly says “We all hate each other” and “I’m able to say things that HR can’t legally say.”
Kristin helps us understand that the key to understanding generations is to understand what was going on during each generation’s childhood. Specifically, it is important to understand how parents were parenting their children in a given time period. Triggers such as the Great Depression, War, and the Digital Revolution change parenting, thus changing the core values of the child.
Kristin says the current living and working generations and micro-generations in America are:
- Traditionalists born 1924 to 1933 – Babies of the Great Depression
- Silent Generation born 1934 to 1945 – Marked by loyalty and longsuffering
- Boomers born 1946 to 1955 – Never going to retire because job and identity are very intertwined
- Flower Children born 1956 to 1965– Children of the Silent Generation who went to war with their parents
- Gen X born 1966 – 1977 – Original latch-key kids who grew up taking care of themselves
- Xennials born 1978 – 1984 – Also latch-key kids who took care of themselves and relate to Gen X but have taken on some characteristics of Millennials
- First half of Millennials born 1985 to 1995 – Parents were more communicative and tolerant
- Second half of Millennials or “Gen Z” born 1996 – 2005 – Took on a new name because “Millennial” had negative connotations but have many of same traits as their older brothers and sisters
- Gen Alpha born 2006 to 2015 – Might someday be called the “Coronials” or “Quaranteenagers” or “Zoomers”
Kristin explains that generations often go in the extreme opposite direction of their parents in areas the children did not like. For example, the children of Boomers (Gen Xers), want to talk with their kids about everything because their stoic parents were very focused on competition and work. Their parents were more prone to miss important events in their lives, so Gen Xers often focus strongly on their children while still trying to be successful professionally. Gen X women tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves and stretch themselves professionally and personally while trying to make it all look “effortless.”
Kristin says that the things that Millennials do are entirely predictable and created by the previous generation as their parents tried to make them not so overly competitive in unhealthy ways. Dr. Spock’s book influenced parenting during this time, and parents were prompted to exercise more communication and tolerance. Kristin explained that a reason many Millennials are successful making changes to their workplaces is that they know they can walk away because their parents assured them of a soft place to land (their basement). Older generations depend upon Millennials’ tech knowledge and don’t want to lose them, which gives Millennials leverage that previous generations did not have.
Generations do not typically get a name until they name themselves. Time will tell what Gen Alpha comes to call themselves.
Kristin wraps up by reiterating that everyone has a role to play in the workplace and in other organizations. Understanding what makes people tick helps us be healthier, stronger, helps teams function better, and helps group dynamics improve.
- The Fourth Turning by Strauss and Haugh.
- Business Insider (2020) – “From Gen Z spring breakers to toilet paper-hoarding boomers, the coronavirus pandemic is a case study in generational differences. Here’s how each generation is dealing with it.”
- Atlantic (2020) – “Gen-X Women Are Caught in a Generational Tug-of-War”
- In addition to her website, find Kristin at LinkedIn.
- HigherEchelon, Inc. is a consulting firm providing Human Capital Services including executive coaching and training in leadership, resilience, adaptability, applied high performance, change management, and a range of mental, emotional, and psychological skillsets meant to optimize organizational performance. The organization also provides a range of technology services such as Salesforce implementations and consulting, Enterprise Technology solutions, Gaming and Simulation services, and Cyber and Engineering Services.
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Belle Curve Podcast is sponsored by HigherEchelon, Inc. and co-hosted by HigherEchelon Director of Communications Rachel Bryars.