The workforce is a fierce, competitive market today. Multiple generations fight for a spot in a company to secure a job; each demonstrating different characteristics that prove they are the best in the business. Baby Boomers earned the nickname by the 2.4 million births within the years of 1941-1964. Generation X, born from 1965-1984, is known as the latchkey children, since their parents were forced into the workplace, leaving them alone at home(Odavia). In the workforce, two generations that show dramatically different styles of performance are Baby Boomers and Generation X.
Baby Boomers and Generation X grew up in diverse settings. Boomers were born with parents being home all the time and television being the main form of technology. Generation X grew up with minimal knowledge of computers, but the room was available for improvement with technology. Claire A. Simmers, Ph.D., chair of the management department at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia states that “The fastest growing group of users on Facebook is Baby Boomers and the older generation” (quoted in Training). Although Boomers use Social Media as often, the skills do not relay to work. Janet Winner, Ph.D., manager of instructional design for Training Solutions, explains that When we train someone in a self-instructional situation, we have to make sure that we provide the training tools to ease them into the new media, whether it’s using an online course or sitting them at a computer lab and making sure they know how to log in (quoted in Training). Baby Boomers are more technology savvy than most generations give them credit. At the same rate, Generation X is the first generation to grow up with technology. Due to this, Gen X cares more about work rate than hours spent completing a task. To Generation X, technology may not always be helpful. According to Jean Kruise, Generation X prefers direct and immediate communication of any kind. Generation X uses technology in their work, but may not always use it. They prefer the older ways of communication, instead of emails and phone calls. No matter how much technology affects workplace lives, preferences will always work over the new technologies of the world.
Due to the generational differences, Baby Boomers and Gen X possess different learning preferences. According to Susan Milligan’s article Wisdom of the Ages, Conflicts often arise from different learning styles, especially as they relate to how information is acquired and used (26). This knowledge can help the generations realize everyone learns differently; but, they must come together as a whole. Baby Boomers are a very sociable generation. The learning style of a Baby Boomer is they prefer to be apart of interactive, or group learning. Boomers also need time to practice applying any new skills they may learn. Finally, they link learning to new ways to add value. At the same time, Gen X has a different learning style. Gen X uses more technology, creating a better understanding of the situation at hand. Hands-on learning is popular with Gen X. Most learn better being involved in the work, rather than reading or writing information down. Gen X prefers skill-based learning, to make learning fun (Milligan 26). Jan Baker, Senior VP of human resources at Autodesk says she hosts coffee mornings so staff can brainstorm together (quoted in Milligan 26). The two generations differ in learning styles; therefore, each works appropriately for the generation.
Baby Boomers and Generation X have different reasons for working. Baby Boomers are considered the perfect generation. Many Boomers are in the workforce because of new jobs created for the enormous number of Boomers. For example, new technologies were being created, so businesses needed more workers to work within companies. Employers created different and sometimes random jobs for Boomers. There were 2.4 million Baby Boomer births, so 2.4 million jobs were needed to be filled. Some older generations believe the Baby Boomers have not lived up to the standards set by the G.I. Generation (Ovadia). Boomer’s perception of the workplace was shaped by what is seen on television. Boomers saw television as the real life and that any and all work was going to be identical to what was on television. In some cases, this was true. On the other hand, Gen X’s reason for working is different. Generation X is known for the lack of motivation within the workplace. The main reason Gen X works is to provide for themselves. Gen X has been called latchkey children (Ovadia). They were left to fend for themselves as economic changes drove mothers into the workplace (Reynolds). This experience created a lot more independence within Gen X. Generation X struggled to find jobs due to the Boomers had filled most of the positions within workspaces. As mentioned in Dan Reynolds’ article Across the Generations. Generation X lacks ambition. If a group of Gen X is put together in a work assignment, not a lot of success will come out of the group. The reason for work from Gen X is to pay bills, eat, and live. Baby Boomers and Generation X workplace goals differ in drastic ways.
In conclusion, Baby Boomers and Generation X are not at all similar. Each generation has had historical events that impacted technology preferences, learning preferences, and reasons for working. Each generation shows how their background defines the workplace. Hope for the future can be seen when bosses of companies come together to overcome generational differences.
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