This is the first post in the JBC Generational Business IssuesSM blog series.

Each year turkey and pumpkin pie come together at a Thanksgiving table, and so do the different generations of family and friends. If you’re like the team at Jennifer Brown Consulting, we love observing various types of generational conversation: incessant texting, long-remembered stories, and even shared pop culture jokes from decades past.

Group of Business People Learning With the Help of Their MentorBut as much as we think of the holidays as times for the mixing of generations, do you know that, for the first time in history, five generations are employed in the American workforce?

Generations are groupings of peers born in a distinctive span of consecutive years. These groups often share similar views about the world; social behaviors and interactions; and ideas of who they are—and how they will impact the world.

According to guidelines set by the Census Bureau, Nielsen Research, and the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, a typical breakdown of generations includes the following:

  • Traditionalists (born between 1930-1945)
  • Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964)
  • Gen X (born between 1965-1978)
  • Gen Y/Millennials (born between 1979-1994)
  • Gen Z/Digital Natives (born between 1995-2010)

Giving Context to Career Challenges

Although these labels can be generalizations, employees of different generations often note they face differences in how they express expectations, share critical feedback, and set boundaries between coworkers and supervisors. Quite simply, looking at a generational pattern can provide context to particular workforce challenges.

Despite even the most successful workplace cultures, age-related misunderstandings and miscommunications can happen. For instance, as Baby Boomers put off retirement for a variety of reasons, Gen X and Gen Y are facing different career advancement challenges. For example:

  • The number of workers aged 55 and older will increase to 25% by 2020, while the percentage of younger workers grows by only 5%.
  • By 2015, 1 in 5 American workers will be over the age of 65.
  • 47% of Gen X adults support a parent 65 or older and are either raising or supporting a child.
  • 15% of Gen X adults are providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.
  • Generation Y will represent 50% of the workforce in 2020. **

Learn More

In the past year, Jennifer Brown Consulting has worked with multiple clients to educate and advise on creative strategies for managing multiple generations in the workforce. In partnership with Jae Requiro, National Manager of Diversity and Inclusion for Toyota Financial Services, Jennifer presented a popular session on “Generations in the Workplace: The Next Wave of Diversity” at the 2014 National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce annual conference in August.

>>Download the Generations in the Workforce presentation.

The team also designed and delivered an interactive half-day training for thousands of managers around the country on the topic of leveraging generational differences for business impact. The program was designed to build deeper awareness of generational mindsets and new skills for navigating them; participants took away new insights and ideas pertaining to everything from customer service practices to marketing and product development.

The program received the highest possible rating of any diversity and inclusion-related training delivered at this client to date. To learn more, send us an email at info@jenniferbrownconsulting.com.

This is the first post in the JBC Generational Business IssuesSM blog series. The next blog post will feature the specific challenges of the generational shifts within the LGBTQ community.

** Sources for this list of statistics include:

Francine M. Tishman, Sara Van Looy, and Susanne M. Bruyère. “Employer Strategies for Responding to an Aging Workforce.” NTAR Leadership Center, March 2012.

Pew Research Center, “Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends.” March 2014.