top of page
  • Writer's pictureDillon Kalkhurst

What is Intergenerational Engagement?

Intergenerational Engagement is the ability to engage with everyone around you regardless of their age. It ignores generational stereotypes and focusses on strengths to increase effective communications. It is the New 21st Century Skill!

For the first time in history, we have five generations active in the economy. Each generation, shaped by historical signposts that occurred in their formative years. These signposts had a lot to do with the values, communications preferences, and the way each generation views life in general.

There are varying outlooks and opinions on the use of "titles" to define people simply based on the year they were born. I agree with some of these views and acknowledge there are outliers. However, there is no denying that generally speaking, those raised around the same time, have similarities.

Most discussions about the generations today center around Millennials. If you Google "Millennials," you get over 17 million results, twice the results of any other generation. The media loves to talk about Millennials, blamed for killing everything from department stores to romance. One of the primary drivers of this intense scrutiny is most companies are led by Baby Boomer and Gen X bosses who struggle to recruit, retain, and inspire Millennial employees. That corporate struggle has created an entire business around Millennial engagement with thousands of books and experts giving their two-cents on how to "figure out" Millennials.

In my new book, "Intergenerational Engagement: Understanding the Five Generations in Today's Economy," I maintain that the communication challenges corporate America face today are not solely Millennial driven. Negative generational stereotypes directed from one generation to the other is the cause. We just don't understand each other.

Dr. Stephen Covey's quote, "Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood," says it all. The goal of my book is to, first help you become self-aware of your own generational preferences and values. Once you understand where you come from and why you think the way you do, then you can seek to understand your muti-generations counterparts. This is true in the workplace, the community, and even your family.

Here is a snapshot of the five generations active in today's economy from my book and Generational Cheatsheets.

Silent Generation - Traditionalist: Born between 1928-1945. There are 28.3 million in the U.S. representing 2% of the U.S. labor force at 3.7 million. Signposts include The Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. As children, they were "seen but not heard." Silents are generally hardworking, loyal, patriotic, and possess a "waste not, want not" mentality when it comes to spending their money.

Baby Boomers - Born between 1946-1964. There are 75.5 million in the U.S. representing 29% of the U.S. labor force at 44.6 million. Signposts include the assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Vietnam War, Protests, Woodstock, free love, the Civil Rights and Women's Rights movements. Baby Boomers are generally work and career-centric, workaholics that expect their employees and kids to work as hard as they did. They introduced a less formal communication style and was the first generation to use first names at work. They were the first to "purchase to impress others" and demand quality products and services. Baby Boomers are retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day.

Generation X - The Forgotten Generation: Born between 1965-1980. There are 65.7 million in the U.S. representing 33% of the U.S. labor force at 52.7 million. Signposts include the end of the Vietnam War, Fall of the Berlin Wall, AIDS, Reaganomics, microwave dinners, and MTV. Gen X parents divorced at a rate higher than any time in the past. They were the latchkey kids, so they learned how to fend for themselves. They are self-starters and don't like to be micro-managed. They possess a work hard, play hard attitude and pioneered "work-life-balance."

Millennials - Gen Y: Born between 1981 - 1998. There are 79.4 million in the U.S. representing 34% of the U.S. labor force at 53.5 million. They became the largest generation last year. Signposts include the rise of the Internet, CDs, and DVDs, September 11th, Terrorism and the War on Terror. They ushered in social media and the 24-hour news cycle. Millennials were the first generation required to perform community service to get into college. That service mindset has followed them into adulthood. They expect companies to be transparent, socially conscious and use sustainable practices. They were products of the Helicopter Parents, are optimistic and feel they can do or be anything they want. Millennials are becoming parents with 25,000 becoming new moms every week. The majority of teachers and K-8 parents are Millennials. At work, Millennials require constant feedback and evaluation. They value lifestyle. vs. climbing the company ladder and won't hesitate to leave a job if they are not happy. They can work anywhere, anytime and do not need to be constrained to a 9-to-5 office. They are innovators, risk takers, and not afraid to make mistakes.

Gen Z- iGens: Born after year 2K. There are 73.6 million in the U.S. representing 2% of the U.S. labor force at 3.2 million. They will become the largest generation, representing 40% of the U.S. population by 2020. Signposts include The Great Recession, social media, Obama's Presidential term, Donald Trump as a TV celebrity and president, opioid and mental illness epidemics. Gen Z is rapidly entering the workforce. They represent all students on K-12 and college campuses. They are stressed out and anxious with nearly 80% reporting mild to moderate depression and anxiety. They are socially responsible, delaying "adulting" or grown-up activities like driving, dating, drinking or having sex. They feel college is a requirement but expect universities to prepare them for getting a job from day one. They are trending like their Traditionalists grandparents when it comes to their spending habits and preferred work benefits.

Are you a Cusper? Yes you are, if you were born close to the year the generations changed. I am a proud Boomer-Gen X Cusper myself. There is an entire chapter dedicated to Cuspers in my book. Cuspers may have one foot in the older generation and the other in the younger. While this can be confusing at times, Cuspers are usually excellent communicators as they naturally relate to their older and younger generational counterparts.

Today, we are all surrounded by five generations of co-workers, family, and consumers. For organizations to thrive into the future, we must stop stereotyping and embrace each other's strengths and values. Intergenerational Engagement is the new 21st Century skill.

I encourage you to read my book to help you learn more about yourself and your multi-generational friends and coworkers.

I have created Generational Cheatsheets that expands upon the data, signposts, values, characteristics and work-career goals for each generation. You can download them for free at our website

28 views0 comments
bottom of page