5 generations in the workplace – An unique movement in time

Hester Gras

It’s just another day at the office. You are hopping from meeting to meeting, launching campaigns, releasing statements and reporting results. While being occupied doing your daily communications job there is something strange going on. Right there, just below the surface a unique movement is taking place. At this moment, there are 5 generations of employees at work in your company.

Hold tight, it’s time for a new ORTEC for Communications special. In this post, we will explore the 5 generations in the workplace. The following posts in this special series will discuss their communication needs, differences and most importantly, their similarities.

5 generations in the workplace

This is the first time in history we get to experience 5 generations in the workplace. Humanity nowadays lives healthier, longer lives. Therefore we are able and willing to work longer than let’s say, twenty or thirty years ago. The world is also changing continuously, resulting in more generational change . When we speak of a generation, we are referring to  a group of people of a certain age that share the same standards and values, defined by the zeitgeist they grew up in.

Let’s start by defining the 5 generations active in the workplace right now.

Traditionalists Babyboomers Generation X Generation Y (Millenials) Generation Z (iGeneration)
Born between 1915 – 1945 1945 – 1960 1960-1985 1985-2000 2000-2010
Some characteristics The Great Depression Protest Negative Positive High expectations
World War II Post-war reconstruction Economic depression Economic growth Economic downturn
Loyalty to employer Full of future ideals No / low ideals Aspires freedom and flexibility Aspires safety and stability
Works hard No brands yet Brands rise Brands are everywhere Brands are everywhere, not always visible
Search for own personality Sense of belong into a group Personality is to be authentic Social media is everywhere
Determined to create a war free future Can put things in perspective Digital natives and entrepreneurs Career multitaskers

This overview might seem  confusing. Are people born before 1945 still active in the workplace? Sometimes they are, but most of the time they are enjoying their retirement. Still, we think they belong in this overview because you communicate with them. They are your so-called alumni employees.

Zooming in on  Millennials and Generation Z, it might seem like there are more similarities than differences. But appearances can be deceptive. Yes, both groups are digital natives, used to continuous brand and media exposure, and driven by  individuality. The difference is that they grew up in a different zeitgeist. While Millennials grew  up in a time of economic growth and the so called internet bubble, Generation Z learned the hard way by facing terrorist attacks, climate change and the Arab spring. Gen Z  is more globally focused and more sensible when it comes to money than their famous predecessors.
Although this blog is written by a sassy millennial, it’s vital to say that all generations matter in the workplace. We can all learn from each other.

We hope you enjoyed reading this blog. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to share them below or contact us. Next time, we will discuss  some facts and figures, communications habits and needs. Stay tuned!

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