From various sources, it seems there is a general consensus on 3 generational groupings in today's workforce:
The Baby Boomers, born during the post-World War II boom, roughly between the years of 1946 to 1960. There were seventy-six million American babies born in this timeframe, creating an expansive need for education and training during this period. Characteristics of this group include higher rates of participation in advanced education and training, nearly perfect attendance, as well as an assumption of lifelong prosperity and entitlement. These workers have had the tendency to "work hard and play hard," while remaining loyal to employers for long periods of time, with an eye toward retirement from that entity some day.
Generation X, born between 1961 and 1981, this group represents a blending of the Baby Boomer methodical classroom training and the advent of technology (computers, videogames and the Internet.) The changing business and educational world demanded more flexible thinking and a dynamic workforce than ever before, transitioning from "paper driven" workflow and personal communication tools to newer and faster processes and throughput. Characteristics of this group include the expressed desire to succeed, the willingness to cautiously try new jobs and tasks, the flexibility to adapt to new situations with a grounded foundation in the "way we used to do it." Members of this group are often placed in the role of mediator between the Baby Boomers and Generation Y groups based on their own experience and understanding of both perspectives.
Generation Y, born between 1981 and 2001, also known as Millennials, this group has not known a world without advanced technology. They have grown up with knowledge and experience with computers, iPods, and cell phones. Characteristics of this group include an expectation of quick advancement in the workplace, the need for rapid responses to inquires and concerns, consistently less patient, a high focus on execution, the demand for immediate and easy-to-use training and education, a possession of greater entrepreneurial thinking, and a lower expectation of usage of interpersonal communication (more emphasis on email and instant messaging than in-person or phone calls).
So, how does a manager blend all of the talents in the workplace from these diverse groups of employees into a cohesive team, focusing on the success of the organization? To answer that question, the manager must assume that members of each group are critical to the success of the company and, when positioned effectively, will grow and succeed on their own merits. Given that premise, the manager then should focus on what each member brings, not only in pure on-the-job skills, but also their respective "ingredients" or individual make-up. What are the elements of an employee's make-up?
These ingredients can include the employee's generational grouping, demographics, attitude, experience, and their specific work needs (including their focus on the level of importance of more money, an important title, employee benefits, professional growth, etc.) By understanding and focusing on each employee, within the context of the organizational structure, the manager has created a staffing gameplan for success. Typically, the Baby Boomers provide the foundation of the organization through their professional experience, loyalty and ability to mentor others.
The Generation X members provide the bridge, understanding the tasks needed to be done and providing effective communication between all stakeholders. Finally, the Generation Y group represent the future of the organization, empowered with quick learning skills, fueled by the initiative to grow and succeed, focused on "what's next" -perfect candidates for succession planning and as part of mentor / mentee programs. The workplace is changing rapidly and we, as managers, must change rapidly as well.