Workplace Challenges Driven By Multiple Generations

At the recent TLMI Converter meeting, a very thought provoking presentation took place. The speakers were from a company called Bridgeworks that specializes in “Solving the Generational Puzzle.” They help employers understand the differences and dynamics of generations interacting in the work place. Their website,, provides a synapses of the generations:
? Traditionalists (born prior to 1946) are retiring and taking valuable knowledge with them creating a brain drain.
? Baby Boomers (1946-64) are heading into the peaks of their careers and forcing companies to think about how to replace their vast numbers and skill sets.
? With a much smaller population of Generation Xers (1965-81) available in the work force, organizations are not only scrambling to recruit, engage and retain them, they are looking to other generations to fill talent gaps.
? And finally, the leading edge of Millennials (1982-2000) is entering full-time employment with very different expectations for how they want to be engaged and managed.

To illustrate their point, their speaking team was comprised of a Baby Boomer, a Generation X member, and a member of the Millennial generation. With a lot of self-deprecating humor, they illustrated the differences in what each generation values and how to effectively communicate with and motivate each generation.

They used one example that really hit home with me. They asked each generation their first impression of NASA and the space program. For the traditionalist (pre baby boomer generation) and baby boomer folks, it was landing on the moon. This event was a major accomplishment and source of pride and demonstrated how when we work together, anything can happen. For my generation, the Xers, the memory is of the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding. This event made us cynical and not trustworthy of big projects/big government. The Millennial generation really hasn’t had much exposure to the space program, other than the occasional article about budget cuts at NASA.

One example creates several different attitudes from people, depending on when they were born. While this is clearly a generalization, I believe it is directionally appropriate. I vividly remember the Space Shuttle Challenger, probably the same way many Baby Boomers remember JFK’s assassination. I can tell you exactly where I was, what I was wearing, and who I was with when we got the news about the Challenger. As a kid, I remember my parents relaying the same facts about JFK’s assassination.

As I’ve written in the past, it is clear to me our industry faces a talent gap in the not too distant future. Talk to a Millennial about labels and their first reaction is, “Print is a dying industry.” While we know that to not be true, we need to do a better job educating

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