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Juanita Berge | Philly Creative Guide Event Reporter

Eastern Technology Council :: Generational Diversity
by Juanita Berge, 1 Dec 2007

The Eastern Technology Council serves leaders of more than 700 technology and life sciences companies by providing valuable contacts and capital, and information and education, through a wide variety of events, publications, and innovative services.

The Council provides a business culture that embraces start-ups and established companies by promoting, supporting, growing, funding, and rewarding entrepreneurial activities in the region in an effort to promote growth and successful businesses.

Visit for more information.

You're on your way out of the company commissary when you bump into the president of your firm. When your eyes meet you say:

  1. Greetings
  2. Hello
  3. Hiya Doin'
  4. Whassup

Research says your answer depends a lot on what era you came of age. If you're a Traditionalist – 62+, born before 1946, you will most likely respond with #1. If you're a Baby Boomer – aged 43 to 61 yrs., born between 1946-1964, you're likely to go with #2. A Generation X'er – 27 to 42 yrs., born between 1965-1981, will probably go with #3. While a Millennial – aged 7-26, born between 1982-2000, is going to be a #4. answer.

What do these categories indicate besides an amusing little quiz? They're very strong indicators of who you are at work according to Kim Huggins, owner and president of K HR Solutions, of Harleysville, PA. You've probably heard or read about the latest and hottest diversity issue to affect today's workplace – four different generations, each with its own personality, expectations and preferences; the new generation gap. A disconnect between managers and their younger cohorts. Multi-generations are working together more closely than ever and understanding them is extremely important to business operations and customer relationships. Generational diversity affects businesses precisely because of their differences. On Tuesday, November 27 the Women's Leadership Networking Group of the Eastern Technology Council sponsored Generations At Work, a presentation that overviewed the four generations, their core values and personality and how these impact businesses as a result.

Huggins says the hallmarks of each era is specific and telling. Whatever was going on during your formative years – from birth to age 18 – shapes your perspective and your expectations of the world. That in turn shapes your expectations of the world of work. She began with the Traditionalists - currently numbering 75 million according to the latest census figures. Their formative years were characterized by residuals of the stock market crash, residuals of the depression, Pearl Harbor and WWII. They wound up with collective core values that called for an extreme work ethic, sacrifice, duty before pleasure and respect for authority. This caused them to have personalities that valued consistency and uniformity. Fitting in was highly praised. Not a very touchy-feely bunch, they are disciplined and into delayed gratification. They are extremely conservative in their spending habits, are extremely brand loyal, and believe in buying American. They are the original law and order generation and make decisions based on what has worked successfully in the past.

Interest piqued yet? We thought so. On to the Baby Boomers.

Numbering a staggering 80 million, the Baby Boomers came of age during the Kennedy era, also the era of the Kennedy and MLK assassinations. Vietnam was raging, civil rights, desegregation and the drug culture were all front page news. Woodstock came and went during their time. And let's not forget, the entire American infrastructure changed because of them. Schools, hospitals, housing – everything went into a building overdrive to accommodate the Boomers. They developed into an optimistic, team-oriented generation - dedicated to a strong work ethic and very involved in community. They believe in growth & expansion (why wouldn't they,) and big families. Theirs was a generation imbued with a positivity about the future. They believe in possibilities, lots of them, and are very collaborative in their work style. They are the original team players. Because there are so many of them, they've been team players since kindergarten.

Generation X is next with numbers at 46 million. This is the first generation raised by moms who worked outside the home. Women's Lib came of age during their coming of age. Of those from 2-parent homes, most were in 2-income families. 50% have divorced parents. They saw the Iranian hostages and John Lennon's murder, the Challenger explosion and massive layoffs in the economy. They were there from Watergate to 3 Mile island to Desert Storm. As a result Gen Xer's are more global in their thinking, and believe in a balance between work and life. They "work-to-live," not "live-to-work." They are technologically literate. They have a smaller sense of what family is and tend to have just a few close-knit friends. Being latch-key kids has made them very self-reliant. They are more informal in dress and personality and have a much more casual approach to authority. They tend to be skeptical and guarded and withhold optimism and excitement. They seem, though, to have a real sense of risk and seek adventure outside of the workplace.

And finally, the Millennials, numbering just at 76 million. Their coming of age was characterized by an explosion in technology. They've lived fast-paced, hectic lives as their heavily involved parents have shuttled them back and forth between one structured activity and the next. They've functioned as full-participants in major family decisions (especially as they are frequently the most technologically savvy member of the household.) 1/3 of them have been born to unmarried mothers and grown up in multi-cultural school districts. They've seen Oklahoma City, Monica Lewinsky and Columbine. Described as optimistic, confident and sociable, most grew up seeing the world as a dangerous place in the news and cultural media. They believe in civic duty. They're streetwise, sophisticated and accustomed to diversity. They are the most tolerant of the other generations.

What do all these very interesting facts mean for business and the way things get done? Why are these facts important? People are living and working longer. 2/3 of Boomers will continue to work past retirement age. By 2010 half of the American workforce will be over 50. There will be a continued increase in dual-career families. There will be an increase in flexible work schedules. By 2025 the number of workers aged 55-65 will increase by 36%. The number of workers 25-54 will only increase 3.8% by that time.

If you look at the positives and negatives in the workplace for each generation, you can fairly predict where different generations will lock horns. On the flip side, these points are very helpful when your management style includes playing to peoples' strengths. Look for some of these attributes the next time inter-office wrangling has you pulling your hair.

  Positives Negatives
TRADITIONALISTS Stable Difficulty w/ change
Detail oriented Uncomfortable w/ conflict
Loyal Reticent when
they disagree
Hardworking Don't buck the system
BOOMERS Service oriented Bad money savers
Driven Uncomfortable w/ conflict
Relationship builders Self-centered
Team players Judgmental
Wants to please  
Sensitive to feedback  
GEN-X Adaptable Impatient
Good w/change Poor people skills
Independent Inexperienced
Out-of-box thinkers Cynical
Techno literate  
MILLENNIALS Inclusive Difficulty w/ people issues
Optimistic Distaste for menial work
Tenacious Need supervision
and structure
Multi-taskers Inexperienced
Techno savvy  

In parting, we'd like to thank you for reading our little insight into the changing world of work. Please pick one.

  1. Thank you very much.
  2. Thank you.
  3. Thanx.
  4. Cool.

Print Article  Brought to you by: Juanita Berge | Philly Creative Guide Event Reporter

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