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Generational Spans in Talent – Baby Boomers, Millennials, & More

Generational Spans in Talent – Baby Boomers, Millennials, & More

As part of the “Cycles of Success: Employee Engagement, Career Development & Talent Management” series (visit, we conducted several interviews with Nicole Trapasso, divisional director of HR and organizational development, at CPP, Inc. Over the next few months you’ll see blog posts from these interviews and more on topics related to talent management and the phases of the talent management life cycle. If you’d like to read more about career development from the personal or employee side, you can find the first blog post in the series here:


One highly interesting aspect of the expanding U.S. workforce is its generational stratification. While, of course, not all individuals within a single generation are the same, the fact that each of these generations is a fairly distinct group of people who grew up in similar times with similar ideals, orientations to authority, technology, relationships, and other uniting factors should be taken into consideration. For the first time in history, we’re seeing as many as four different generations in the workforce at one time, and that number will rise to five very quickly as the Baby Boomer generation extends its stay in the workforce.

A generation has been defined in the social sciences as “people within a delineated population who experience the same significant events within a given period of time” (Jane Pilcher, “Mannheim’s Sociology of Generations: An undervalued legacy,” British Journal of Sociology, 45, 3 [September 1994]: 481–495. doi:10.2307/591659; retrieved 10 October 10, 2012).

Start and end dates of each of the generations are interpreted differently by those who study these issues, but in general the dates reflect the U.S. Census birth curve. Of the six generations living today and listed below, the last four are considered to be active in the U.S. workforce:

  • Greatest Generation (aka G.I. Generation) – born between 1901 and 1924
  • Silent Generation (aka Mature, WWII, Lucky Few) – born between 1925 and 1942
  • Baby Boomers – born between 1942 and early 1960s
  • Generation X (aka Gen X) – born between early 1960s and early 1980s
  • Millennials (aka Gen Y) – born between early 1980s and early 2000s
  • Generation Z – born after the Millennials (generally between mid- to late 1990s and the present day; no exact agreement on these dates)

A visual breakout of the generations in the U.S. labor force from the 2013 census ( can be seen below

Percentage of Labor Force by Generation

Labor Force Participation Detail


While all aspects of the descriptions for each generation may not fit in all cases, the table below from in 2012 references common factors of generational members (note that the ages listed to corresponding birth dates are also from 2012):

Generational characteristics from


Talent management professionals and managers inside organizations understand the importance of supporting employees of all generations with their career development, but individual employees share responsibility for managing their own professional development. As reflected within the current workforce, many employees will most likely have careers that include multiple employers and potentially multiple areas of focus. When you take into account the potential generational influences, you would expect some differences in the way employees pursue their professional development.

Generational aspects are one factor. Generally speaking, Gen Xers and the Millennials will have numerous careers over their professional lifetime, which may naturally drive their interest in owning their own career development over time and wanting their employers to support them with their career goals. This may look very different for professionals from the Silent/Mature and Baby Boomer generations who may have focused on working for fewer employers and developing in a single professional area. It is important for managers to welcome those conversations with their employees from all generations to understand their professional goals and how to help support them in their career. This is a key aspect of maintaining healthy employee engagement.


Given the growing generational span of employees, how can you gauge where their needs are at different points in their career?

One of the ways you can approach employees from various generations is to foster the learning opportunities within the company. A powerful learning environment can be created by getting all the generations in your workforce to learn from each other in productive and collaborative ways—encouraging an acknowledgment that learning is possible from all parties. If you can foster an environment in which people glean the information they want to learn from others in the organization, it creates a cohesive partnership where employees are more engaged and feel that their contributions are valued.

For example, employees who have grown up using the Internet may solve a problem differently than older employees introduced to the Internet later in their career. The opportunity is that both parties can learn from each other. Human Resources can continue to support teams and work groups to foster those natural learning paths and attempt to create some synergy between generations with common company visions, goals, and values. It comes down to maximizing the investment you’ve made in your employees so that all parties are successful and engaged throughout their career. When polling many of our long-term employees at CPP, we found that one common trend is that they have enjoyed the continued ability to learn and contribute over the course of their career at CPP and learning from many of their colleagues as well as their manager, regardless of the generational framework. Whatever the composition of your organization, it is helpful to keep in mind the potential impact of generational characteristics as you are creating or refining your professional development and learning programs so you can customize your approaches appropriately.


Previous blogs on Talent Management:

Today’s Workforce Trends Affecting Tomorrow’s Leaders

Meaningfulness and Engagement in Your Workforce

What is the Talent Management Life Cycle?


Want more? See a directory of all the blogs for Cycles of Success, head to the blog directory here.



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