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Managing Across the Generations

August 14, 2010

Never before has the workforce been so diverse with such a variety of levels of skills, experience and knowledge, and generations.  Since the term “baby boomer” was first coined by Landon Jones, in his book Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation, much study and research has been dedicated to understanding the differences between generations.

Depending on your source, the dates for the generations fluctuates.  Jones, defined the “baby boomers” as those born between 1946 to 1964.  This timeframe follows the end of WWII and rise in prosperity and birth rate.  This generation has been further segmented reflecting the social, economic and political events that occurred.  One source calls out two “cohorts” during this span – cohort one starting in 1946 and lasting until 1955, and cohort two or Generation Jones, running from 1955 through 1964.  The name Jones, refers to an increasing importance of “keeping up with the Joneses”, found during this era.

The next generation is called Generation X.  The dates for this generation range from 1961 to 1981.  The following generation is termed Generation Y, Generation Next, Millennials, or Echo Boomers, with birth dates running from the 1970’s into the early 2000’s.  Generation Z, refers to those born in the 1990’s until the present.

Great history lesson, but what does it mean to me?  As Project Managers we are now managing teams that span all of those generations.  Each generation has its own needs, drives, influences, behaviors and attitudes toward work  which makes managing multi-generational team challenging.  Understanding what each of the generations wants and needs helps us to better understand and communicate with all of them.  While we cannot tailor our management and leadership styles specifically to each generation, we can look for ways to build consensus and collaboration.

The multi-generational workplace has become a topic of much debate and discussion and there are many excellent resources out there.  I have attached a few below.  Our multiple generations are one  more element of diversity in our workplace and understanding and communication are the keys to celebrating and leveraging that diversity.  Vive la différence!

What do you think?

Resources

Generational Characteristics

Multi-Generational Workforce

The Multi-Generational Workforce – BOSTON COLLEGE

Engaging the 21st Century Multi-Generational Workforce

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