How many generations of people are in the workforce today? The answer may be fewer than you think.
It is often said there are four or even five generations of people in the full-time labor pool, but the answer hinges on the definition of generation and simple math.
A generation typically spans 18 to 22 years. Currently, 97 percent of the workforce in the United States is 18 to 73 years old, a 56-year spread, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That means it is unlikely you will have more than three generations in your place of business — at least legally — at any given time.
Right now, the generations in the workforce are Baby Boomers, the oldest of whom are in their early 70s, Generation X members, and Millennials, the youngest of whom are just entering their teen years. Generation Z members are barely old enough to stay home alone (see Busting Myths – Generation Z).
Although there are only three generations in the active, full-time workforce, the generational differences are significant. A survey of thousands of employees in the insurance industry, for example, revealed that three-quarters of respondents agreed that there are important generation differences, and those differences “sometimes” or “often” pose challenges in the workplace. (See more about this in “Why Generations Matter” from LifeCourse Associates.)
These differences include how members of each generation set goals for themselves and others, what members of each generation wants from their managers and coworkers, and even how they communicate. Learn more about how Millennials are changing the workplace here.