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WAR AMONGST GENERATION X, Y, Z and the Baby boomers


One Shoe does not fit all!!! As HR practitioners, the war amongst these generations is here to stay for some time and therefore we have to deal with it. We need to understand generational differences.

While the retiring baby boomers still require to work because they did not prepare well for retirement, they are requesting for respect while finding it hard working under Generation X – their “children”.

While Generation X is the most hard working, most educated and very family oriented group, they prefer to focus on family and business. They are often characterized by high levels of skepticism, “what’s in it for me”. A good number now, are holding middle and senior management positions however there are others that are working in places where boomers are still part of the C-suite. This has forced the Gen X’s to learn to “fend” for themselves – highly entrepreneurial. Gen X are viewed by Boomers as “whiners”.

Generation Y on the other hand is all over the place, they would like to meet or have breakfast with the CEO and do not understand why this is not possible. They are very creative and innovative and therefore get bored with routine work. They like instant gratification. They like freedom of expression and have grown up with computers thus have vast amount of information far beyond the reach of other generations.  The older generations find it hard managing this group that hates authority. They want to be put in leadership and prefer flat reporting structures despite their lack of experience. They are loyal to the profession not the employer. Retaining them on the job is quite challenge as on average they move every 3 years. You need to keep them engaged.

Here comes Generation Z. They have not yet started working but there is need to prepare for them. This group has grown up with a highly sophisticated media and computer environment. They are more internet savvy and expert than their Gen Y forerunners. “Training on the job” is going to be a big challenge. What approach and technology among others are you as a Generation X going to use to train them? You hardly understand how they think and do things.

The work ethics, culture and expectations of the different generations creates war amongst the generations.

If HR practitioners want to identify, attract, on-board, engage, develop, retain and separate with high calibre talent in this competitive labour market, they should realise that one shoe does not fit all. I strongly believe that there is need to acknowledge the different needs, motivators and drivers of these respective generational groups and deal with them accordingly. This will create a balance and calm amongst the different generations. Today, most of the focus should be put on Generation Y.

baby boomer

Baby boomers: Born late 40s – early 60s)

Aging & retiring Boomers who believe strongly in security and loyalty

Grew up after the wars, prospered in the 80s and 90s. Lived lavish lifestyles. Had large families of 6-9 children, HIV/AIDs prevalent among their peers, Did not necessarily plan well for retirement. Some faced retrenchment, Now being managed by Gen X.

Disciplined, Relationship oriented however feel over worked and underpaid.

HR Initiative

  • Give them challenging work and a flexible work environment; part-time contracts, project based assignments, retiree on call programs
  • Give them a chance to build a legacy – mentoring others and transferring knowledge
  • Retirement preparation programs


Generation X: Hard-workers born late 60s – early 80s under a lot of cultural & political strife globally. Witnessed parents retrenched from civil service. First generation exposed to daycare and divorce. This experience influences how they shape their own families, avoiding broken homes and financial planning. Known as the generation with the lowest voting participation rate of any generation. The dot coms are arguably the best educated generation having the highest education level, family oriented, independent, want immediate and honest feedback however don’t like constructive feedback , entrepreneurs, acknowledge social diversity, balanced, want a clear career path, work towards long term institutions, emotional maturity

HR Initiative

  • Allow them to telecommute – offsite workdays…
  • Be clear on career growth opportunities
  • Attachment programs, Recognition of their professional/family milestones, Family related benefits; wellness programs, medical & group life insurance, mortgage facilities, retirement packages, work-life balance, school day offs, discounted health club, CSR


Generation Y/Millennials: born late 80s onwards and are now joining workforce. Work in teams and like to make friends. Want to multi skill, positive, confident, hate boredom & authority. Have shaken things up with the attitude that if they don’t like what’s happening at work they have a fall back situation – go back home to their doting parents. Grown up with computers thus have vast amount of information far beyond the reach of other generations

HR Initiative

Tap into their IT talent, provide workplace diversity, instant gratification (Recognition – spot awards for innovations, thank you messages, promotion, bonus, salary reviews…) Learning opportunities – online, Tuition benefits, Non- hierarchical structures, Car & land purchase loan facilities, sports galas, team building offsite programs. Now, not interested in long term benefits. Physical walls are not important to them. When onboarding them, let them meet the CEO. Teach them corporate etiquette – they need it. Role specific induction is key. Let them chose a mentor, cross boarder exposure and attachments elsewhere. Open communication – let them have their say. Delegate to them early enough and fast track their progession. For fun, variety is key: theatre, retreats, lunches, parties, holiday in Dubai!  Is all this effort enough to make Gen Y stay?


Generation Z Born: 1995-2012 This population is growing rapidly. While we don’t know much about Gen Z yet…we know a lot about the environment they are growing up in. This highly diverse environment will make the grade schools of the next generation the most diverse ever. Higher levels of technology will make significant inroads in academics allowing for customized instruction, data mining of student histories to enable pinpoint diagnostics and remediation or accelerated achievement opportunities.

Gen Z will grow up with a highly sophisticated media and computer environment and will be more Internet savvy and expert than their Gen Y forerunners.

HR Initiative

What can I say? Prepare for them.

Employer branding that attracts cross generations will be at the forefront of bringing peace to this war among generations. Some general initiatives that need to be introduced include;

Employer/Employee value proposition (EVP) – Win-win solution at contractual agreement. Do not have rigid career opportunities, rewards and benefits.   Customize pay & benefit packages that are specific to generations. Diversify lateral career opportunities. Workplace wellness and work life balance need to be embraced. If a Generation Y does not have a family yet, the premium that would have been paid for his family’s medical insurance can be used as his spot on incentive for a job well done.

Because of the retiring baby boomers & aging population, there is leadership shortage and a talent gap created at the top as many organisations did not prepare successors. A steady supply of leaders is somewhat lacking.   Generation Y does not like hierarchy and are anxious to get to the top. Develop successors (Gen X & Y) for key positions – make ready in 1-5 years.

Organisations should focus on Knowledge management: knowledge transfer from retiring baby boomers.

Nowadays, with the ongoing war for talent, it is impossible to retain our good employees – Gen X to be specific. There is need to convert individual knowledge & innovation from talented persons into company knowledge – intellectual property

Tap on Gen Y technological knowledge as this is the competitive weapon – analytical reporting tools, social media, e-business, self-service…

Use diverse recruitment methods to fill vacancies quickly: global recruiters and social media. Talent markets itself & shares job openings on social media platforms like linked-in.

HR professionals need to partner with higher institutions of learning specifically on Internship programmes. During these internships, groom own talent and instil corporate cultures for commitment. Internships will give you an opportunity to interact with and understand the younger generations better and enable you prepare for them adequately.


One comment on “WAR AMONGST GENERATION X, Y, Z and the Baby boomers

  1. jos van snippenberg

    Gloria great post.

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This entry was posted on 27/11/2014 by .
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