Four Generations in the Marketplace and the Workplace

My father was a member of the G.I. Generation (1901 – 1924), and he realistically employed three generations of people. His customer base was, primarily, also three generations. I am a Baby Boomer (1946 – 1964), and employ and sell to four generations. The trick is being able to reach and communicate with each of these generations. Let’s define the generations. 

The Silent Generation (1924 – 1946), age 68 – 90, is still active in the workforce and is still buying glass and related goods. They get their information from newspapers, television and word-of-mouth. They use computers and Smart phones as tools, but trust information in print and from personal relationships. They are “Old School Traditional thinkers.” They are the great grandparents. 

The Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964), age 50 – 68, are very active in the workforce and often are at senior positions in their established companies. They get their information, primarily, from television and computers, with support from newspapers and smartphones. Some have teenage children, but most are grandparents. 

Generation X (1964 – 1982), age 32 – 50, are also very active in the workplace. They are “climbing the corporate ladder,” or building their businesses. Many are parents of young children. They get their information from computers and smartphones with little impact from newspapers and television. 

The Millennials (1982 – 2001), age 13 – 32, are still in school or relatively new to the workplace. There are a larger than ever number of Millennials living at home. The minority are parents and they, almost exclusively, get their information from smartphones. 

Communication with all of these groups involves two items: the message and how are you're delivering it. Tailor your message and its delivery method to each respective generation. The message doesn’t change. The emphasis is altered depending upon the target generation. 

In general, as employees, The Silent Generation and The Millennials are very similar. Both want to have fun at work.  For different reasons, both want to work limited hours. And also for different reasons, both generations tend to be short-term thinkers.  

As customers, The Silent Generation and The Millennials couldn’t be more different. Silenters buy as a reward to themselves or to help them adapt as they age. Silenters have lived for delayed gratification and now are reaping their reward. They buy things that are practical yet plush. Millennials are much more “me” oriented. They buy because it’s fashionable and want instant gratification. As a general rule, they are less interested in longevity of a product because they view many things as disposable. 

To me, as a salesperson and employer, The Baby Boomers and Generation X are very similar. As employees, they take a longer term view because they have responsibilities. As a general rule, they are both still working for achievement. Both generations are dependable as employees. They work until the job is done regardless of how long it takes. 

As customers, they are also very similar. As a general rule, the products these generations buy don’t have to be as cutting edge as Millennials, but more modern than The Silent Generation demands. Both use glass more than the other generations. Both want a good value. 

In summary, we interact with four generations. We all get in the habit of thinking everyone is like "me." Each generation has its own peculiarities. How do we communicate with each respective generation? The most important thing is just to be aware of the differences. The differences include how each thinks, how each communicates, what is important to each, and how they make employment or buying decisions.

Bill Evans is president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville, Tenn.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

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