• Kat O'Sullivan

Wonder how different generations are defined?

Updated: May 5, 2020

Have you ever wondered how a generation is defined? According to the PEW Research Center, generations are defined by 3 intertwined characteristics: the stage of life, the period effect (a disproportionate effect on a certain cohort because of where they are in their stage of life), and the cohort effect (created by historical events that create differences among various age groups). Let's take a closer look. Download infographics here.

Stage of Life

Baby Boomers (earned the right to make their own decisions):

  • Near-retirees: Who keep working, part-time or full-time; or who even start new companies or become a consults

  • Active retirement: Not working anymore, however, actively engaged in the community, volunteering, traveling, etc.

  • Senior/Old Age/Elderly: While this use to start at 60-something, it’s now more like 80-something

Gen X (aka Sandwich Generation — caring for children and aging parents):

  • Adulthood

Millennials (typically a period of shifting priorities):

  • Emerging adulthood: 20-something

  • Adulthood: 30-something +

Gen Z (sense of invincibility):

  • Adolescence: Starting about 11

  • Teenage Years (High School)

  • Emerging Adulthood: 18 - 23 (College/Entry into Workforce)

Keep in mind, the older generation has ALWAYS bemoaned the younger generation. So, keep in mind, it's really more about their stage of life than their "generation."

Period and Cohort Effect

These two effects are covered in the next two posts that address how important it is to understand and appreciate what has influenced each generation and how that impacts their mindset, attitudes and actions in the workplace.

Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it. (George Orwell)
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