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Understanding a Multi-Generational Workforce. Willow Jacobson School of Government, UNC-CH State Budget and Management’s Annual Conference October 15, 2008. Agenda. Demographic and diversity changes in the workforce Managing an intergenerational workforce

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Understanding a multi generational workforce

Understanding a Multi-Generational Workforce

Willow Jacobson

School of Government, UNC-CH

State Budget and Management’s Annual Conference October 15, 2008


  • Demographic and diversity changes in the workforce

  • Managing an intergenerational workforce

  • Changing expectations and values at work

Important to consider
Important toConsider

  • For every two experienced workers

    leaving the workforce, one will enter

  • Matures and Boomers embody the culture of most organizations today

  • In 2006 everyday 7,918 Boomers turned 60

  • One in six workers will be over 55 years in 2008

Matures formative events
Matures Formative Events

  • The Great Depression

  • Pearl Harbor

  • WW II

  • Hiroshima

  • The New Deal

Matures values
Matures Values

  • Duty, honor, dedication, sacrifice

  • Conformity, unity – “We First”

  • Hard times then prosperity

  • Patience

  • Importance of a job well done

  • Law and order; respect for authority

  • Adherence to rules

  • Age = Seniority

Matures in the workplace
Matures in the Workplace

  • Are loyal to their employer and expect the same in return

  • Believe promotions, raises, and recognition should come from job tenure

  • Measure a work ethic on efficiency

On the job
On the Job


  • Stable and Thorough

  • Detailed oriented

  • Loyal and Hard working


  • Challenged by ambiguity and change

  • Reluctant to buck the system

  • Uncomfortable with conflict

  • Reticent when they disagree

Matures in the market
Matures in the Market

  • Faith in the nation’s institutions and the government

  • Demand quality

  • Are loyal customers but aren’t afraid to shop around

  • Follow the rules that have been established

  • Believe standard options are just fine

Messages that motivate
Messages that Motivate

  • “Your experience is respected here”

  • “It’s valuable to the rest of us to hear what has –and hasn’t—worked in the past”

  • “Your perseverance is valued and will be rewarded”

  • Motivated by symbols

Baby boomers formative events
Baby Boomers Formative Events

  • The Civil Rights movement

  • Martin Luther King

  • John F. Kennedy

  • Vietnam War

  • Woodstock

  • The Cold War

  • Roe vs. Wade

Baby boomers values
Baby Boomers Values

  • Stability

  • “Workaholic”

  • Competitive

  • Balancing family and work

  • Desire for respect

  • Success is largely visible

  • Personal development

  • Optimistic

Baby boomers in the workforce
Baby Boomers in the Workforce

  • Evaluate themselves and others based on their work ethic

  • Work ethic measured in hours worked

  • Teamwork is critical to success

  • Relationship building is very important

  • Expect loyalty

On the job1
On the Job


  • Service oriented

  • Driven

  • Good at relationship

  • Team players


  • Not naturally “budget minded”

  • Uncomfortable with conflict

  • May put process ahead of result

  • Overly sensitive to feedback

Baby boomers in the market
Baby Boomers in the Market

  • Are interested in products and services that will allow them to regain control of their time

  • Believe technology brings with it as many problems as it provides solutions

  • Want products and services that have been customized for them, the individual

  • Believe rules should be obeyed unless they are contrary to what they want; then they’re to be broken

  • Want products and services that will indicate to their peers that they’re successful

Messages that motivate1
Messages that motivate

“You’re important to our success”

“You’re valued here”

“Your contribution is unique and important”

“We need you”

“I approve of you”

Gen xers formative events
Gen Xers Formative Events

  • Post-Watergate

  • Fall of the Berlin Wall

  • Challenger explosion

  • The Gulf War

  • The PC boom

  • Parental divorce rates

  • ‘Latchkey kids’

  • MTV

  • AIDS

Generation x values
Generation X Values

  • Parent’s began raising them as “friends”

  • No common heroes

  • Work-Life balance

  • Independent

  • Cynical and pessimistic

  • Seek career opportunities

  • Thinking globally

  • Technoliterate

  • Informal

Gen x in the workplace
Gen X in the Workplace

  • Eschew the hard-core, motivated, Boomer work ethic

  • Want open communication regardless of position

  • Respect production over tenure

  • Value control of their time

  • Look for a person to whom

    they can invest loyalty

On the job2
On the Job


  • Adaptable

  • Technoliterate

  • Independent

  • Un-intimidated by authority

  • Creative


  • Impatient

  • Poor people skills

  • Inexperienced

  • Cynical

Gen x in the market
Gen X in the Market

  • Can spot a phony a mile away

  • Rely on peer-to-peer referrals

  • Want options; plans B, C, and D

  • Embrace technology

  • Want to be in control of the sale

Messages that motivate2
Messages that motivate

  • “Do it your way”

  • “We’ve got the newest hardware and software”

  • “There aren’t a lot of rules here”

  • “We’re not very corporate”

Millennial formative events
Millennial Formative Events

  • Oklahoma City bombing

  • 9/11 terrorist attack

  • Columbine High School

  • The Internet boom

  • Child focus

  • Technology

Millenials value
Millenials Value

  • Optimistic and Confident

  • Individual key, yet group oriented

  • Difficulty focusing on “non stimulating” stuff

  • Often raised as “friends”

  • Search out authorities

  • Ambitious yet aimless

  • Civic duty

  • Diversity

Millenials in the workplace
Millenials in the Workplace

  • Search for the individual who will help them achieve their goal

  • Want open, constant communication and positive reinforcement from their boss

  • Find working with someone of the Mature generation easy to do

  • Search for a job that provides great, personal fulfillment

  • Are searching for ways to shed the stress in their lives

On the job3
On the Job


  • Collective action

  • Optimism

  • Tenacity

  • Heroic spirit

  • Multitasking capabilities

  • Technological savvy


  • Need for supervision and structure

  • Inexperience, particularly with handling difficulty people issues

Millenials in the market
Millenials in the Market

  • Want to be like their peers but with a unique twist

  • Don’t want to be hurried

  • Consider a company’s products if the company is known for their altruistic attitude

  • Are loyal consumers

  • Search for the unique items

Messages that motivate3
Messages that Motivate

  • “You’ll be working with other bright, creative people”

  • “Your boss is in his (or her) sixties”

  • “You and your coworkers can help turn this company around”

  • “You can be a hero here”

Respect for authority
Respect for Authority

Seniority and tenure

Similar values Matures; they’ve earned it

Authority figures deserve skepticism & testing

Test but search

  • Matures:

  • Boomers:

  • Gen X:

  • Gen Y:

Time on the job
Time on the Job

  • Matures:

  • Boomers:

  • Gen X:

  • Gen Y:

Work ethic defined by the punch clock

Visibility was/is the key

“What does it matter when I work, as long as I get the job done”

“It is five o’clock – I have another life to get to.”

Work life balance
Work-Life Balance

  • Matures: Interested in flexible hours

  • Boomers: “Was/Is this workaholic lifestyle

    worth it?”

    Are the rewards worth the cost?

  • Gen X: Balance is very important.

    Willing to sacrifice it occasionally

  • Gen Y: Lifestyle vs. promotion

Bottom line differences
Bottom Line Differences

  • Time was something that could be invested with the hope for some sort of return in the future

  • Defined by their job and association membership

  • To them, there is no promise that invested time pays a dividend

  • They’ll have multiple CAREERS, so the job is probably a temporary thing

  • Matures

    and Boomers:

  • Gen X

    and Y:

Workplace strategies
Workplace Strategies

Baby Boomer

  • Sabbatical options—longevity leave

  • Increased vacation

  • Retirement packages

  • Fitness benefits

  • Consulting options

Workplace strategies1
Workplace Strategies

Generation X/Y

  • Leadership development

  • Mentoring

  • Recognition/incentive

  • Vacation

  • ‘Cafeteria’ benefits plan

  • Cross training

  • Education

Workplace strategies2
Workplace Strategies

All Generations

  • Alternative work schedules

  • Telecommuting

  • Employee assistance

  • Floating holidays

Workplace strategies3
Workplace Strategies

  • When possible combine function-based work with project-based work

  • Team vs. Independent?

  • Consider communication


  • Avoid stereotyping