How the Generations Behave – Part One

Cam Marston of Generational Insights was a guest speaker at Crawford & Company’s recent Board of Directors retreat in Charleston, South Carolina.  Cam’s company specializes in generational trends in the workplace.  We asked Cam to tell us a little about how the different generations behave as consumers and as workers.  Here’s what he had to say.

The Generation Gap

One of the main factors that differentiates today’s workplace and marketplace – and may be alienating you from your employees and customers – is generation or age group. We all see the world through our own generational filter. Each generation has a shared history, common biases, and core beliefs. The experiences of our youth shape our points of view.

Moreover, our age and our life stage also dictate some of our needs and preferences. In some cases, the differences between generations are minor, while in others, they could prevent you from connecting with a new hire or sales prospect. Many of the things that will help us connect come with our ability to understand their generational points of view. In particular, Millennials, America’s largest generation, are just now beginning to inundate a workplace and marketplace that may be ill-equipped to understand and serve them.

The Generations

The Matures – Born before 1946, the Matures are really a composite generation of several groups, all born before the end of World War II. These include the Veterans, also known as the Greatest or G.I. Generation (born before1925), and the Silent Generation (born between 1925 and 1945). These generations have played important roles in our history and are known for their sense of sacrifice, patriotism, and duty.

Almost all Matures have reached retirement age today. However, due to increases in life expectancy, they are much more active in the marketplace and the workplace than previous generations were at this stage in life. There were about 40 million Matures – also known as Traditionalists or Traditionals – in the United States in 2010.

The Baby Boomers – Born between 1946 and 1964, the Baby Boomers get their name from the remarkable “boom” in the birthrate following World War II. As this exceptionally large generation has moved through each life stage, it has reshaped ideas about youth, education, work, and aging.

Baby Boomers have always had a sense of their generation’s uniqueness and importance. They maintain a lifelong connection to their youth in the 1960s, a time of momentous cultural and political change. Baby Boomers are known for their optimism, self-confidence, and ambition. They now total nearly 80 million Americans. Until the emergence of the Millennials, Baby Boomers were considered the most important demographic in commerce.

Generation X – Born between 1965 and 1979, the smaller Generation X grew up with less economic and family security than the Boomers, often in households with divorced or two working parents. The previous generation’s optimism gave way to the scandals, inflation, world crises, and recessions of the 1970s and 80s. Xers are thus known as skeptical, cynical, and pessimistic.

Despite being labeled “slackers” in their youth, Xers generally shoulder the responsibility for their own well-being. The advent of the personal computer and Internet during their youth made them the first tech-savvy generation. They number about 60 million in the United States today.

The Millennials – Born between 1980 and 2000, Millennials were originally known as the “Echo Boom” because they came mainly from the Baby Boom generation having children of their own. They lived for most of their youth in a time of broad economic and technological expansion but have been chastened by the Great Recession

Ease with technology is one of the hallmarks of Millennials, along with a sense of optimism and entitlement. Millennials have a sense of social and environmental responsibility, are attuned to peers and trendsetters, and are avid users of social media. They number about 85 million in the United States.

Because they represent such a huge percentage of the working – and buying – population, Millenials warrant a deeper look.  We will delve into how Millenials work and buy in Part Two.

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