Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomer: The 4 Leading Generations in the Workplace

Learn about the characteristic differences of each generation in the workplace.

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4 generations, 1 workforce. Understand who's who in the workplace.

You may have heard of Millennials, Gen Y, Gen Z, Gen X and wondered “who’s who?” ⁠— particularly in the workplace.

While it can be tough to define each generation in terms of characteristics, concrete demographics, and the likes, you can get a general idea of who belongs to which generation, which we’ll explore below.

Who are Generation Z (aka Generation Alpha)?

You may have heard of Generation Z and Generation Alpha (they’re the same).

Generation Z refers to the demographic of people born after the Millennial generation. A Gen Zer is anyone born between 1995 and 2019.  The oldest Gen Zers at the time of this post are 24 years old, according to Kasasa.

Generation Alpha is the youngest, defined as the tech-savvy young children of Millennials.

Gen Zers represent the smallest, but fastest growing, sector of the American workforce currently with 9 million people, or 5% of the total working population, according to Pew Research.

Who are Millennials (aka Gen Y)?

The textbook definition of Millennials ⁠— also known as Generation Y ⁠— is anyone born after 1981. They’re referred to as “Millennials” because they’re the first generation to come of age in the new millennium — the 2000s.

Some may speculate that the true Millennial was born in the late ’80s and early ’90s, where their peak childhood was in the early 2000s, therefore having been greatly influenced by the boom of technology.

Pew Research found a few data points about Millennials that are important to note:

  • Millennials are higher educated: 39% of those ages 25 to 37 have a bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Millennials have brought more racial and ethnic diversity to American society
  • Millennial women, like Generation X women, are more likely to participate in the nation’s workforce than prior generations.
  • Millennials – those ages 22 to 37 in 2018 – are delaying or foregoing marriage and have been somewhat slower in forming their own households

Who are Generation X?

Generation X is the generation that precedes Millennials but comes after Baby Boomers. They’re the cohort born between the early-to-mid 1960s to the early 1980s.

They’re not quite Baby Boomers because they weren’t born immediately following the war, nor are they Millennials as their exposure to modern technology was still relatively limited. They’re defined as having come to age in the late 1980s, early 1990s.

Who are Baby Boomers?

“Baby Boomers” are anyone born between 1946 and 1964. Their generational nickname was coined because of their large populace, attributed to the boom of post-war births in the mid-century.

In regard to Baby Boomers, Pew Research notes that Boomers:

  • Are the largest U.S. electorate, preceding Millennials
  • More male boomers have attended college than females, which is the opposite of Millennials
  • Boomers had the opportunity to create stable lifestyles in their youths

Millennial and Boomer stereotypes

It comes as no shock that each generation comes with their own body of stereotypes — especially Baby Boomers and Millennials.

Millennial stereotypes

Perhaps the most common Millennials stereotypes are that they’re lazy because 23% of them still live at home or that they’re slower to adopt a career, home life, and all the other traditional fixings valued by Baby Boomers. They’re also commonly seen as entitled, as stereotypes derived from their will to speak out against injustice and their will to change the future for the better.

Baby Boomer stereotypes

Common stereotypes regarding Baby Boomers is that they’re fear-driven, which experts believe could be due to having childhoods so close to the war era. They’re also commonly referred to as “stubborn” and resistant to any sort of change. It’s believed that this is due to the emergence of technology disrupting their well-established lifestyles.

In the workplace

Regardless of their stereotypes, as workers, they’re relatively the same.

Pew Research reports that despite a reputation for job-hopping, Millennial workers are just as likely to stick with their employers as Gen X workers were when they were the same age.

In 2018, 79% of Millennials ages 22 to 37 and 77% of Gen X-ers the same age in 2002 reported working for their current employer at least 13 months. About half of both groups said they’d been with their employer for at least 5 years.

In terms of entering the workforce, the unemployment rate was especially high for America’s youngest adults in the years just after the recent recession. This still has an impact on Millennials and continues to impact their future earnings and wealth. Though this may change as Boomers begin to retire.

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