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Generational Gaps in the Workplace

The workplace is a constantly evolving environment. EctoHR, Inc.’s clients often name generational gaps as a major challenge in the workplace, especially as their organizations evolve. Most companies will soon have five different generations that work side-by-side, each with different values, ideas, ways of accomplishing tasks, and communication styles. While maintaining a workforce with various backgrounds may prove to be challenging at times, it can also create excellent opportunities for learning and growth.

Highlighted below are some key traits of the four major generational groups found in today’s workplace. It is important to note that these are generalizations and EctoHR’s experience is that people are usually more alike than not. (Also, it’s not true that the youngest generation in the workforce (millennials) does not have a work ethic or has no interest in conforming to company structure!)

  1. Generation Y/Millennials (Born 1981 – 2006)
    • Values: Work/life balance, flexibility, change, challenge, achievement
    • Motivated By: Challenge and flexibility
    • Communication: Texting/Social Media
  2. Generation Y (Born 1965-1980)
    • Values: Balance, diversity, fun, independence, informality
    • Motivated By: Freedom and time off
    • Communication: Email
  3. Baby Boomers (Born 1946 – 1964)
    • Values: Personal gratification and growth, team-oriented, anti-conformists, equality
    • Motivated By: Being valued and money
    • Communication: Telephone
  4. Traditionalist (Born 1925 – 1945)
    • Values: Hard work, loyalty, respect for authority, discipline
    • Motivated By: Respect and security
    • Communication: Prefer in-person, one-on-one

Typically, employers express the most frustration with Generation Y/Millennials due to their desire for flexibility, need for immediate results, and communication style. In fact, differing styles of communication is most commonly the biggest issue across all generational gaps.

Once an organization understands the differences in these groups, it can work to use them to its advantage. Mentorship programs are an ideal way to do this. For example, pairing a Millennial with a Traditionalist is an excellent way to establish cross training opportunities. The Millennial may teach the Traditionalist new software or a chat function that can increase productivity. In return, the Traditionalist could have the Millennial sit through an important in-person meeting to learn the value of face-to-face communication.

The most important thing to remember is that each generation brings an important set of skills to an organization, and the ability to maximize those strengths is a key to everyone’s success.

If you would like to learn more about generational differences or how EctoHR has helped manage those gaps, please contact one of our team members at 810.534.0170 or



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