Daisy Warner

Daisy Warner


January 3, 2024

Understanding generational differences in the workplace

Read more about generational differences in the workplace and what employers can do to meet their expectations.

Understanding generational differences in the workplace

Most companies are composed of a multigenerational workforce, while they do differ by age, employers should also consider an employee based on their work ethics and individual strengths, educational backgrounds and experiences.

To ensure all employees feel recognised in the workplace and to avoid any possible generational clashes, employers must strive to understand each generation and how they can meet their needs. 

This article looks at the differences in the generations in the workplace and how employers can meet their expectations.

Generational differences in the workplace 

Understanding the generational differences can help both with hiring, retaining, and ensuring employees feel valued in the workplace.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

The term 'Baby Boomer' refers to the ‘baby boom’ i.e. higher rates of birth in the post-war era. 

Below are some key characteristics of this generation at work:

  • Educational background: Baby boomers entered the workforce much earlier, during the mid 1960s to 1980s, so their period of education was much shorter. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) research found that in 2015 less than half of people in their 70s had no qualifications, and people educated to at least A-level stood at 31%. 
  • Technology exposure: This generation would have started working during the very early technological developments. This will likely have sparked their interest in learning about newer technologies in the workplace.
  • Work ethic: According to Indeed's guide, this generation’s measure of success is achieving personal goals, such as financial independence or owning a house. Some of their traits include self sufficiency, taking pride in their job, and using initiative to achieve work targets. 
  • Future of work: This generation makes up a large portion of the workforce and will be some of the older people in the business. The latter part of the generation will still not fall under the official retirement age in the UK which is 66. As a result, baby boomers may act as mentors to more junior employees due to more years of service and knowledge of the industry. 

Research shows that during the COVID-19 pandemic 3% of baby boomers were made redundant or took early retirement after preferring the switch in lifestyle and slower pace of work. However, 1.5% had to postpone retirement due to job loss during this same period. 

  • Expectations: This generation are nearing the latter years of their careers, so will look for work perks that match this. According to research from Indeed, Baby boomers often look for the following benefits: financial security, good retirement plan and private health insurance. 

Generation X (1960s–1980)

The key characteristics of Gen X in a work setting are:

  • Educational background: Gen X-ers entered the workforce during late 1980 and late 1990s, with some leaving school much earlier than later generations.
  • Technology exposure: This generation experienced the introduction of the first PC and early mobile technology which will help when adapting to newer technologies.
  • Work ethic: Gen X-ers are experienced, skilled, independent and entrepreneurial in their approach to work and growing their career. Due to less reliance on technology earlier on in their careers, they may prefer to be more proactive in their work and prefer in person communication. 
  • Future of work: According to LinkedIn research, Gen X-ers tend to be in leadership or mid-level positions. 
  • Expectations: When retaining this generation of employees, employers should consider: good holiday offerings, flexible working opportunities and child-related benefits.

Generation Y (early 1980s and 1996)

Gen Y, also referred to as millennials since most became adults around the time of the millennium. The following are key features of this generation in the workplace: 

  • Educational background: According to the ONS, 25–34 year olds have the highest level of “over-education” compared to other generations. 
  • Technology exposure: They are referred to as the generation of “digital natives”, as they were growing up during the rapid advances in technology. 
  • Work ethic: The evolving world of technology has played a big part in Gen Y’s communication and attitudes towards work. Millennials generally seek more personal development and growth, and will explore different work opportunities throughout their career. Deloitte research found that 43% of millennials planned to move jobs within two years.
  • Future of work: Millennials make up the biggest proportion of the workforce - the youngest and oldest people of this generation are of working age. Being tech-savvy they are driving innovation and change in many industries, and are now moving into more senior roles. However, the cost of living crisis is a top societal concern for millennials which may also determine the type of opportunities they pursue.
  • Expectations: Deloitte's Millennial Survey found that work-life balance and flexible work arrangements were the top priorities. Millennials may also be looking for work perks surrounding mental and physical health, travel opportunities, and a social culture in and outside of work. 

Generation Z (1997–2012) 

Gen Z are likely to be the youngest people in the workforce. The key characteristics of this generation in a work setting are:

  • Educational background: Many Gen Z individuals will have experienced significant disruption to their education, first office jobs, and their plans to enter the workforce due to COVID-19. 
  • Technology exposure: Gen Z grew up even more exposed to technology than Millennials. Statistics show that 68% welcome AI and other technology in the workplace.
  • Work ethic: A large majority of Gen Z-ers are seeking jobs that are meaningful for society and are very conscious of the environmental impact of businesses.
  • Future of work: Gen-Z employees are often ambitious, looking for clear career paths, and work with their colleagues in a cooperative manner. They may be used to remote or hybrid work settings as they would have started their careers online. Despite this, they may wish to have in-person interactions in order to meet and learn from people in the business.
  • Expectations: Gen Z-ers will likely be looking for flexible working hours, health and wellbeing perks, volunteering opportunities, strong company culture and values, and an environment fosters diversity, etc.  Research from Forbes also suggested that social and political issues matter most to younger generations, and their company’s positions on topical issues will determine if they stay at a job.

Ways to meet generational needs in the workplace

As the workplace and workforce itself continue to evolve, it is important for companies to understand these differences and adapt their practices to meet the needs and expectations of all generations. By embracing these differences, businesses can better equip themselves to attract and retain top talent. This, in turn, can create a more productive and engaged workforce. 

The following are important considerations to help meet needs in the workplace:

  • Types of communication: Understanding the types of communication that different generations require can ensure all needs are met. For example, written form may be more important to Gen X or Gen Y whereas Baby Boomers and Gen Z may prefer communicating face-to-face. 
  • Company perks: Offering good benefits packages to appeal to all employees can help cultivate company culture and retain employees. This includes flexible working arrangements, work-life balance, competitive compensation packages, private health insurance, structured pension plans, etc. It is also recommended that employers send out employee surveys to gauge the needs of the workforce and differences that may arise across generations.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives: DEI initiatives may include regular training or conferences to raise awareness and address unconscious biases across the workforce, for existing and new people joining a company.
  • Career growth and development: Employers can provide personalised development and progression opportunities so that employees, in any role or industry, can feel recognised and supported through their career path. 


Legislate can help businesses create, manage and track all of their legal contracts. For example, an employer can easily tailor the contracts to include specific benefits employees are entitled to and any related details. Book a demo or sign up today.

The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.

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