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Generation Gap

According to a recent study, there are now four generations working in many British workplaces. And, while they might be here already, 60% of organisations believe this is going to be challenge, with only 43% feeling prepared.

The research, produced by ORC International’s HR Reflections study, also found that there are three big challenges for companies as a result of the generational situation:

  • Achieving optimum use of technology and digital communication
  • Pay and benefits suitable to all
  • Recognition processes that motivate all

But are the differences really there?

The four generations currently active in the workplace include:

Baby boomers – Born after WWII at a time of increased optimism, stability and opportunity. Exceeded their parents in terms of education, financial and social opportunities. Embraced live to work mentality, striving for personal gratification through teamwork and collaboration.

Generation X – The children of work-committed Boomers, they have had to be independent and adaptable. They advocate feedback and recognition, encourage contribution and teamwork. Born in economic depression and living through events such as the Vietnam War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Thatcher era, they have a tendency to be impatient, independent and cynical.

Millennials – Having grown with technology, millennials are used to being able to communicate with people anywhere, any time. This can feed a sense of impatience, and gives them a reputation as the “now generation”. They like regular feedback and career opportunities, and expect the flexible working conditions that technology offers. Some believe that millennials spurn leadership roles, yet there is also evidence to suggest that they do want to be leaders, but on their own terms and in a more entrepreneurial way.

86% of HR professionals say that millennials are different to previous generations

Generation Y – Born from 1997, this generation is only just beginning to join the workforce, yet we are already getting a taste of what characteristics they will bring. The Winter/Spring 2015 Cassandra Report: Gen Z describes them as individualists who thrive on sharing information. They don’t see youth as something that should stand in the way of achievement. Born into a world of terrorism, war and economic hardship, Generation Z are realists and pragmatic in how they approach future careers

Avoid the misconceptions

Along with Baby Boomers, Generation X makes up the majority of leadership positions today, which might be why 86% of HR professionals say that millennials are different to previous generations. And in a way, so they should be…

How easy is it now to “have it all” – the career, the house, the family – in comparison to the days of the Boomer and even Generation X? Millennials define themselves by different achievements because times have changed since the days of the hippies, beats and flower children of the ‘60s, or the no seat belts, no helmets, no sunblock days of Generation X. They are the generation of use, not ownership – nimble, resourceful and entrepreneurial.

The key to success with generations is revising misconceptions:

“The only thing different about the millennial generation is that it is actually asking for the things that everybody else wants.”– Laszlo Bock, Chief of Human Resources, Google.


To ensure you know your millennials from your GenYs and to learn innovative techniques to develop and engage future talent, book your ticket for Early Careers Development 2016, London 14 July. Recognise the importance of knowing your future talent.


Lindsey Armstrong is an employee engagement expert at ORC International. ORC International is a global research agency and leader in the art of business intelligence. Operating across four core sectors: employee research, customer research, markets and products and strategy research, it helps businesses explore, navigate and integrate insights to uncover what truly engages people.

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