December 12, 2017

The Changing Faces of our Workforce: Generational Inclusion in Focus

By Joan Andrews, Ready To Work Business Collaborative

Companies are currently facing an interesting dynamic in terms of talent acquisition: their workforce is comprised of Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers, and now even Gen Z is entering the mix. With this dynamic in play, does a company’s diversity strategy contain a component of generational inclusion in addition to varying demographics?

The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that total employment will increase by 15.6 million jobs by 2020. As a talent professional, this gives me pause to consider the age-related implications. Generational differences must become a component of diversity and inclusion strategies.

The Workforce by GenerationGen Xers are the largest working generation. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials and Gen X both occupy around 34 percent of the workforce while baby boomers still represent 29 percent. When it comes to the growing skills gap, this baby boomer population percentage is a number that cannot be ignored. Now, the complicated age populations get further complicated as Gen Xers begin to age and think about retirement.

The Differences

Gen Z, overlapping slightly with Millennials, is comprised of the cohort born between 1996 through 2010 just beginning their career journey. They have used the Internet from a young age and are comfortable with technology and creating relationships on social media. Some suggest that growing up through the Great Recession has given the generation a feeling of unsettlement and insecurity.

Millennials, born between 1984 and 2000, are often mischaracterized as entitled and job-hoppers. They are, however, ambitious and developing their skills for business protocol. When recognized, Millennials can be driving force of change for the better in the workplace.

Gen X, born between 1965 and 1984, scored higher than the other generations when it came to effective collaboration. In separate research published by the Center for Talent Innovation, 65% of respondents associated the “team player” label. Gen Xers are next in line to fill the roles boomers retire.

Baby Boomers, workers age 55 to 64, are working longer and will still make up 20% of the workforce by 2020. Perception characterizes them as having difficulty working with Millennials and not technologically savvy.

Jobseeker Participation Rates Are Down: Every Resume Counts

And here’s why it’s crucial to understand generational nuances: the workforce is shifting and many people are opting out. The BLS reveals that the participation rate of potential employees between the ages of 16-54 has decreased consistently since 2007 from 66.4 to 62%. With boomers working longer the numbers seem counterintuitive.

The RTWBC is continuously promoting hiring best practices that include underrepresented populations, which serves not just jobseekers but employers looking to fill positions with skilled workers. The long term unemployed – those out of work for more than 27 weeks, of which a large percentage are over the age of 46 – are frequently disqualified as a result of unintentional or sometimes intentional bias related to perceptions of cultural fit or ability to learn.

These insights beg the following question: How can we achieve inclusion with such strong beliefs in generational differences?

“When it comes to problem-solving, having different generations of employees tackling the same issue brings a much higher level of creativity, perspective and empathy that is truly unique,” says Lidia Shong,

The Upshot: Generational Balance Is Key

Millennials bring tech savvy and work efficiencies that can benefit companies. Boomers bring professional insight, adaptability, knowledge of company’s culture and coaching to incoming employees. If companies strike the right balance and make concerted efforts toward generation integration, it could result in a workforce with optimally balanced skillsets and perspectives. If looked at the right way, the apparent generational opposition might actually be a perfect fit.

Leveraging generational differences in the workplace can create effective teams that can lead companies forward to their next evolution. Consider each generation and the benefits they bring as you establish your talent and inclusion strategies.


Ready To Work Business Collaborative, founded by a collective of Fortune 500 companies, is committed to working cooperatively to develop hiring best practices that target the long-term unemployed, under-employed, people with disabilities, military veterans, and Opportunity Youth. The RTWBC accomplishes this mission through collaboration, thought-leadership, and services that support employers who desire to serve these talent pools better.

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Ready To Work Business Collaborative works cooperatively to help employers develop hiring best practices that target the long-term unemployed, underemployed, people with disabilities, military veterans, and Opportunity Youth.

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