Generation Gaps in the Workplace

Alright, let’s get the generational platitudes out of the way: Baby Boomers are cranky and hard working, Millennials are entitled but tech savvy, and Generation X . . . listens to a lot of Nirvana? Whatever. The point is, generation gaps exist and can seem colossal, but we can do better than relying on a few caricatures: we can use numbers.

Specifically, we can use Ernest and Young’s numbers. E&Y surveyed 1,200 American professionals this past June on how they perceived different generations of workers. They were evenly split by gender, and also by the three defined generations, which are: Generation Y (or Millennial), ages 18-32; Generation X, ages 33-48; and the Boomers, ages 49-67. Here are the salient points:

Generation X

Gen Xers scored the best in most categories, including best at collaborating (53%), the best at building relationships (53%), and the best at problems solving (57%). The only areas where the Boomers are beating Gen X are in executive presence, which one would expect, and cost effectiveness, which seems a bit more puzzling.

Generation Y

Perhaps predictably, Millennials did the best in social media (70%) and in technical savvy (78%). They also beat the Boomers in adaptability (41% versus 10%), collaboration (27% versus 20%), and being entrepreneurial (29% versus 15%).

That said, Millennials scored the lowest in cost effectiveness (7%), problem solving (16%), and in building relationships (13%). Also, just for fun, they are paid terribly.

Baby Boomers

Boomers are the best at cost effectiveness (59%) and execuative presence (66%). However, in all other areas, they don’t score as well. In particular, they’re the worst at technology (4%), social media (6%), and adaptability (10%).




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