What does each generation need and expect?


Plunkett Cooney

By:  Claudia D. Orr

Recently, Detroit SHRM had a speaker who addressed this issue at one of its educational dinners.  It was really interesting and unfortunately many members missed the presentation. Well, I just came across an article in the November 29, 2016 State Bar of Michigan’s “e-journal” written by Roberta Gubbins (former editor of the Ingham County Legal News) that provided useful insights to attorneys about what their clients may want, depending on their generation.  Since it translates well to the wonderful world of human resources, I thought I would provide the following relevant content from Ms. Gubbins’ article for Detroit SHRM members: 

Traditionalists, born 1900-1945, don’t question authority, adhere to the rules, put duty before pleasure, are savers, and believe in hard work. While they have adapted to technology, they prefer face-to-face contact, less e-mail, and handwritten notes. Marketing to them can include cards for birthdays, holidays, and quarterly newsletters as well as meetings for lunch, Rotary, Kiwanis, or Lions.

The 75 million Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964, are the most educated of the population. They are confident of self, not authority, want a prestigious title and the corner office, have the highest divorce rate and second marriages in history, and were the radicals of the 60s and 70s and the yuppies of the 80s. They are ambitious, competitive, and ethical.

Baby Boomers have acquired technology; they research and buy products and services online, use e-mail, TV is important to them, and they are on Facebook and Twitter. They still go to the mailbox, appreciate newsletters, brochures, postcards, and greeting cards. When writing content for them, it should be straight forward, written in 2nd person, in clear, easy-to-read fonts, and include white space and graphics. They are loyal—do a good job and they will come back and refer others.

The Gen Xers, born 1965-1980, are a small group, numbering about 51 million. They have a low level of trust for authority and are juggling children, job, aging parents, and home ownership. Xers are the first generation to not do as well financially as their parents. They are apathetic politically, highly educated, and have assimilated technology into their lives.

Gen Xers shop and research online, like e-mail, and use social media, namely Facebook and Twitter. They also respond to print such as newsletters, postcards, or greeting cards. Include both print and digital marketing to reach them.

The Millennials, born 1981-2000, are the largest group with 79 million members. By 2020, they will comprise 46% of the workforce and control or influence the spending of $1.3 trillion. They prefer meaningful work, want the companies and services they use to contribute to the community, and view marriage and parenthood as more important than careers and success. They respect authority yet are less trustworthy of individual people. They are the first generation of children to have schedules. They were born with a smartphone in their hand.

To reach Millennials, forget print and use all forms of digital communication. They are more apt to come to you if they are referred by their peers or if your reviews are positive. They will visit your website, your SBM Member Directory profile, and read your blog. Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., is a constant part of their world. They also stream radio to their phones, tablets, and laptops. Think about including radio advertising as part of your marketing plans.

Pretty interesting, right?  I am a Baby Boomer and much of the description is accurate except I could care less about a corner office or prestigious title and have become less competitive overtime.  So, be careful not to stereotype too much since this could lead to an age discrimination claim.  Remember, under the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, any decision based on age maybe unlawful, even if it favors the older worker over the younger employee.

This article was written by Claudia D. Orr, who is Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee of Detroit SHRM, and an experienced labor/employment attorney at the Detroit office of Plunkett Cooney (a full service law firm and resource partner of Detroit SHRM).  She can be reached at corr@plunkettcooney.com or at (313) 983-4863. For more information go to: http://www.plunkettcooney.com/people-105.html. 

Detroit SHRM encourages members to share these articles with others, inside and outside their organization, as long as its name and logo, and the author’s information, is included in the re-post of the article. November 2016.