South-Western - Management  
With Different Work Values, Younger Group Waits for Boomers to Move Aside
Topic Managing Individuals and Teams
Key Words Generation X, Generation Y, Baby Boomers, Millennials, work-life balance
InfoTrac Reference CJ126510104
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News Story

As baby boomers reach retirement age, members of Generation X are ready to take over management positions. The transition could be rocky and will create changes for the workforce. For starters, Generation X has much smaller numbers than the Boomers estimated 76 million. Estimates put this group at between 49 and 59 million. This shortage of replacements workers could be felt most in teaching and nursing, which already have labor shortages.

Another problem brought about by the retiring of boomers will be the loss of expertise. Managers can prepare for this by giving their young workers the opportunity to work with veteran workers through mentoring programs and project teams made up of members of diverse age groups. Some industries are preparing to maintain a connection with Boomers after retirement. For example, the Society of Automotive Engineers has assembled a group of nearly 40 retirees to consult with auto suppliers on a project basis.

The workplace itself could see dramatic change as a result of Generation Xers coming into management. For Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, work was the way they defined themselves. Xers grew up watching their Boomer parents give all to their careers, with the end result often being divorce, fatigue, illness, substance-abuse and one-track lives. As a result, they value balance in the workplace and refuse the long hours that Boomers often prided themselves on. Workers ages 18 to 37 are more likely to view family as equally or more important than work. Flexible schedules may become more common when members of Generation X make the rules. Accountability will also be important, as this group has debunked its "slacker" image and shown it gets work done through self-reliance.

Meanwhile, the oldest members of Generation Y, or the "Millenials" are graduating from college and starting careers. This generation, described as those born between 1977 and 1994 or after 1982, depending on the definition you use, has been described as diverse and driven and very close to their parents. So far, this group appears upbeat and engaged with good organizational and leadership skills. This generation also prizes work-life balance.


The article describes differences between three generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y. What are each generation's defining characteristics when it comes to work?


You are the manger of a small department that employs four well-respected Boomers with extensive industry knowledge and connections and two younger Generation Xers who have brought new ideas and energy into your area. However, the two groups often don't see eye-to-eye when it comes to problem-solving and new projects. What strategies can you employ to smooth the transition to management for the newer employees and capture the knowledge of your experienced team members before they retire?

Source "With Different Work Values, Younger Group Waits for Boomers to Move Aside," Detroit Free Press, Dec.27, 2004, pp.NA.
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