All The News That Fits

Generational Workers in the Labor Force

Posted by Nancy on February 12, 2009

This is one of those topics you sort of know instinctively if you are prodded to think about it, but probably won’t think about on your own.

Earlier this week I sat through a presentation on Generational Workers and the differences they makes in their contribtions to a company.  Of course these are all generalizations, but as you think of it and think of people you know, there is certainly truth lurking here. 

The presenter said for the first time our country’s workforce is made up of four distinct generations of workers:

  1. The Traditionalist – born before 1946, these people are 7% of the work force.  They are hard working, dedicated and loyal to their company, are comfortable with established chain of command, knowledgeable, dependable, and often in positions of leadership.  They are also financially responsible, only buying what they can afford. Fifty percent of the men in this group are military veterans, so they are very patriotic.
  2. The Baby Boomers – born between 1946 and 1964, they not only were rebellious as youth but they were the first generation where women entered the work force in very large numbers.  They are such a large group they have had to compete all through their lifetime – to get into college, to get a job, to get promoted, etc.  That has made them very hard workers who expect others to work just as hard.  They are dependable, but they want instant gratification and are spenders who are approaching retirement age with no savings and often large loads of debt.  Many of them have no intention of retiring.
  3. Generation X – born between 1965 and 1978, they are the smallest group and the one everyone else loves to hate.  They were the first group to grow up with computers, so they are good with technology.  They were also the first group to grow up as latch key kids, left home alone by their working boomer mothers.  This made them independent and innovative, and many of them are very entrepeneurial.  They will get your job done for you, but they will do it their way.  They want to progress in their careers, and see the generations above them as a hindrance as they delay retirement.
  4. The Millenials – born after 1978, this group uses all forms of technology well and can usually be found multitasking with gadgets.  They don’t see why they should have to come to work at set hours, but are willing to take their work home to finish it.  Their primary allegiance is to their friends, and they see nothing wrong with quitting a job and taking a lower paying one if they don’t have a support group of peers where they are or if they don’t respect their superiors.  Raised in the era of self-esteem, they require a lot of positive stroking.  They see nothing wrong with living at home with their parents.  They also hate repetitive work and will not do it, which is going to cause problems for manufacturers who will need to replace older workers in repetetive jobs.

Anyway, I got to thinking about this not only in the context of the workplace, but also in the context of the political arena.

The Millenials will become an even larger group than the boomers, and they will be our voters of the future.  Read that above description of them again.  They will need somewhere to go when Mom and Dad no longer have a basement for them to live in – they are looking for someone to care for them so they can hang out with their friends forever.  Rather than feeling pride through hard work, delayed gratification, innovation, competition, or any of the attributes of the older groups, they are on the road to becoming perpetual children. 

They want a nanny state to take care of them.

This isn’t a generation gap – it’s a chasm.  How did we get here?

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4 Responses to “Generational Workers in the Labor Force”

  1. hedt2000 said

    Interesting article. Relevantly, as many nationally influential voices have repeatedly noted, Obama is part of Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X. Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten a lot of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) specifically use this term to describe Obama.

    Great op-ed on Obama as the first Generation Jones President in USA TODAY a couple of weeks ago:
    http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20090127/column27_st.art.htm

  2. Very interesting breakdown and descriptions of the generations. Readily applies to present and future voting patterns. Glad you posted it.

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