September 14, 2010
Human Resource Management BA 421 KP
Normally we tend to think of diversity in relation to age, race, gender and religion. These days there is more focus being given to diversity in the form of generational differences. While the other factors in diversity (age, race, gender and religion) tend to lead to legal issues, generational diversity is generally more of a performance issue. Generations can be loosely defined as bodies of individuals born and living at about the same time. “Each generation is molded by distinctive experiences during their critical developmental periods” (Twenge, 2008). The culture and media created common value systems…different for each generation. There are gaps between generations due to differences in the cultural environments that they grew up in. Experts don’t always agree on the specific years to include in each generation (Crampton & Hodge, 2006), but they do agree that each generation has its own principles, behaviors, expectations, conventions and motivators. Companies are becoming increasingly more interested in how to attract, retain and manage people from different generations in the workplace. Each generation has different expectations, values, communication styles and motivators (Crumpacker & Crumpacker, 2007). What interests an older employee might not be the same for a younger employee. The U.S. workforce contains four different generations of workers: the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. There is however, a consensus among experts that the two largest generations creating change in the workplace are the Baby Boomers and Millennials (Gesell, 2010). Understanding generational gaps in the workplace is critical in today’s business environment. Bridging those gaps can help ensure a productive, cohesive, and successful environment.
Baby Boomer Snapshot
Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1967. They are often referred to as the “show-me” generation, the “breakthrough” generation, the “stress” generation, or the “me” generation. Boomers grew up in a time of social and technological change. “They are characterized by social change and increasing affluence” (Simons, 2010). They experienced the invention of the TV, the Pill, the Civil Rights Movement, the space race, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Women’s Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr’s march on Washington, the Watergate Scandal, and The Vietnam War. They witnessed the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. Boomers are sometimes viewed as overachievers or workaholics. They are often seen as idealists and have a strong sense of loyalty. In the Boomer’s day it was not unusual to work for the same company until you retired. Baby Boomers respect authority but tend to see themselves as equals. According to Crampton & Hodge (2007), Baby Boomers are the largest generation group today with 78 million in the work force. Due to their knowledge and experience, most of today’s leaders are Baby Boomers. As leaders, Boomers are sometimes thought to be micromanagers. Millennial Snapshot
Millennials were born between 1980-2003. Other known names for Millennials include; Generation Y, Echo-Boomers, Gen Next, Generation Now, and the Why Me generation. Millennials have grown up in a time of instant gratification due to technological advances. “Millennials were raised during the most child-centric time in our history” (Neil, 2010). Millennials were raised in an environment where their parents catered to them and rearranged their schedules around them; they made them the center of the family. Significant events that mark the Millennial generation include the 1986 Challenger Explosion, the fall of the Berlin Wall, The Oklahoma City Bombing, The Columbine...