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Do You Really Need to Manage the Different Generations Differently?

I was recently included in a panel of 10 HR Experts in the Halogen Software  HR Raging Debates Roundtable. This virtual roundtable brought together industry leaders including HR analysts, practioners, authors, social media pundits and academics to weigh in on some of the hottest HR and talent management topics currently faced by HR pros, including appraisals, succession planning, managing the generations and weisure.

If it's focused on experts, why was I involved again?

The roundtable participants include thought leaders: Josh Bersin,President and CEO, Bersin & Associates;Nixon Kennedy Peter Cappelli, Professor of Management at The Wharton School; David Creelman, CEO, Creelman Research; Kris Dunn, VP of People, DAXKO and blogger at HR Capitalist and Fistful of Talent (WHO?); Richard Hadden, author of the Contented Cows leadership books; Lance Haun, Vice President of Outreach, MeritBuilder and blogger at Rehaul; Sharlyn Lauby, President, Internal Talent Management Group and blogger at HR Bartender; Ed Lawler, Distinguished Professor of Business at the Marshall School of Business; Laurie Ruettimann, Blogger at PunkRock HR; and Libby Sartain, former CHRO of Yahoo! Inc. and Southwest Airlines, author, and HR advisor. 

It's a cool series, so go check it out.

Here's one of the topics that interested me - not because we haven't talked enough about it, but because I was interested to see what the others would say:

Do You Really Need to Manage the Different Generations Differently?

Here's my answer:

"I’m a big believer that you might need to tweak your employment branding to message to the different generations in an effective way. For example:

Gen Y – “Our soda is free and we’ve bought a carbon offset for the lights. Damn it feels good to be green”.

Gen X – “Check out the pictures of our outing to the Pearl Jam Reunion Tour this summer. Good times. Did we mention we’re holding the boomers to the original retirement dates they gave us? Can’t have the Gen X ceiling because those boomers won’t retire.”

Boomers – “Be sure to see our “best in class” employee contribution rates towards our medical plan, as well as the quality of the plan as evidenced by the low deductibles. Did we mention we’re stack ranking those cocky Gen Y kids?”

I kid, but I think the time to manage generations differently is in the recruiting process. Sell what you got, my friends. Once the talent is in the door, I think everyone wants to know what’s in it for them, and I also think every generation starts out their careers by wanting to fast-track. So I think you have to address that with the younger folks in your organization, but I’m not sure that’s much different than it was for the young Gen Xers I used to know.

A funny thing happens to young folks from every generation that turns their focus from Mt. Dew to stability: Kids and mortgages. When a generation stops having those two things enter their lives, call me. I might change my stance. Once you get beyond the youth equation, I think every generation has stars, role players and low performers. I think the most effective approach is to manage talent based on their talent level rather than their age.

Except for Gen Xers.  You should always treat those people special."

Go check out the responsesof Sartain, Cappelli, etc.  And why you are at it, vote my response up!  Feel free to vote Laurie Ruettimann down, because it's gone all bloods vs. crips between the two of us., Actually, it's probably not bloods versus crips.  It's more like West Side Story before the finger snaps weren't considered macho enough for someone with my muscle tone.


Connie Costigan

Hey Kris, thanks for your thoughts in this post and for sharing the forum with your readers. We've received a ton of positive feedback about the site, and bringing together so many great HR thinkers in this format. And a little friendly competition between contributors never hurts either :-) And thanks for being such a great part of the forum's early success and inspiring participation.


You feel pretty
oh so pretty
you feel pretty and witty and bright

Alexandra Levit

Sounds informative, and also like it was a blast. I'm honored to know about half of you personally and hope you can gather this panel again for something else!

Kind Regards,

Alexandra Levit
Columnist, Wall Street Journal
Author, MillennialTweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Managing the Millennials

Barbara Safani


This post is spot on! Life happens and priorities change and the needs of each generation change with it. At the end of the day, many people want the same things.


Totally agree. Even if there aren't universal differences between the generations, I just like being treated like someone took the time to customize anything to what they think my needs and interests are. Even if I'm not the tech savviest millennial, I like that people assume I am. At least they took the time to think about the generation I'm coming from. And its satisfying to break some of the stereotypes that come along with generational generalizations, like when the Gen Xers and boomers I work with realize that I'm not as entitled as they might have originally thought. Obviously, managing people based on their specific, individual needs is the best scenario, but until you know exactly what those needs are, managing to the needs of their generation is a good place to start. Now where's my trophy for participation...

Ben Eubanks

Free coke (soda?!?)? I'd go in a heartbeat, but only if it's Diet Mountain Dew.

Wally Bock

Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best independent business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.

Wally Bock

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