Transcript – Episode 22

Fred Dunayer:             Welcome to the SCORE Small Business Success Podcast, Been There Done That! To get free mentoring services, as well as to see the wide variety of resources available for small businesses, visit our website at, or call 1-800-634-0245. And now, here’s your host Dennis Zink.

Dennis Zink:                Episode Number 22. Generational Characteristics in Hiring and Managing Employees. Our guest today is Tricia McLaurin. Welcome to Been There, Done That!, Tricia.

Tricia McLaurin:          Thank you, I’m so excited to be a part.

Dennis Zink:                Fred Dunayer also joins us today as our co-host and audio engineer. Good morning, Fred.

Fred Dunayer:             Good morning, Dennis.

Dennis Zink:                Tricia McLaurin has worked in the human resource field for sixteen years. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from New York Institute of Technology. She obtained her Master of Arts in Industrial Relations from NYIT. Tricia is celebrating her eleventh anniversary with Paychex Corporation, and is currently a human resource consultant. Tricia is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management, and is currently pursuing her second Master’s Degree in Leadership Management. Tricia, what is one of the most prevalent concerns that would be affecting the workplace today?

Tricia McLaurin:          I’d say by far, generational gaps within the workplace is the most prevalent type of concern and area of strategy affecting most employers.

Dennis Zink:                And what do you mean by strategy?

Tricia McLaurin:          It not only requires your knowledge of who the generation gaps are, but how they should be implemented amongst your workplace teams, how their communication differs from generation to generation, and most of all, how they would like to be heard, rewarded, and appreciated. And once you have that understanding, you have success.

Dennis Zink:                What are the five generational gaps within the workplace?

Tricia McLaurin:          Well, the five generation gaps within the workplace are first, the Silent Traditionalists, followed by the Baby Boomers. Next we have the Generation X-ers, followed by the Millennials, and we complete the gaps with the Digital Natives.

Dennis Zink:                Now I’m assuming that’s going from oldest to youngest, is that correct?

Tricia McLaurin:          It is. The Silent Traditionalists are usually 70 years (1925-1945) or older, and then we follow with the Baby Boomers, who are between ages 51-69 (1946-1964). We then are followed by the Generation X-er, who begin at around 33 to 50 (1965-1982). We follow up with the Millennials, who begin at about 16-32 (1983-1999). And followed by the Digital Natives, who are 15 years of age and go all the way to birth (2000-today).

Dennis Zink:                Okay. I didn’t realize that they’re employable in the workplace, the Digital Natives, that is.

Tricia McLaurin:          Well we find now, with the vast growth in these generations, and their gaps, that it is necessary to not only prepare for them taking over the large gaps that will be left from the retirement ages of both those Baby Boomers as well as the Silent Traditionalists. We also see such vast difference in their technological ability, that much study has been dedicated to understanding who they are and how they operate.

Dennis Zink:                And what would you say are some of the negative characteristics or maybe stereotypes of these different groups?

Tricia McLaurin:          Well, beginning with the most mature generation gap, which is the Silent Traditionalists, they are definitely considered to be the penny-pinchers, the ones who are very focused on money, how much it costs, and what is being spent. Most of that is attributed to the fact that they grew up during a time of depression, and they really had to be very fiscal with their spending. The Baby Boomers are considered to be the most liberal group, which although that can be very positive and advantageous in certain scenarios, they’re sometimes looked at as hard to rein in, and appreciate independence and opportunity. And sometimes, that overwhelms productivity.

The Generation X-ers are known as the most moody generation. They were the ones who first had independence in entrepreneurial; however, because that great, big American Dream did not work as often expected or as told by their parents, they’re very bitter from where they find themselves in their career path, as well in certain aspects of their work life balance.

Millennials are incredibly savvy, with regards to technology. However they have not learned some of the fundamentals that we consider most important for in-person communication and references. They [inaudible 00:05:12] the lines of not being able to represent themselves well, if it is not through a social media or technological device.

And finally, the Digital Natives. I think the best way to sum them up is that they have been coined as technologically literate and very savvy, but functionally illiterate. Many of the things that we would consider taboo for not having understood, embraced, and acknowledged through implementation, these Digital Natives are just not familiar with and don’t have an appreciation of.

Dennis Zink:                And what would be some different communication styles of each generation? The people who are they Silent Traditionalists, are they involved with technology or they just don’t bother?

Tricia McLaurin:          Well, the Silent Traditionalists have come further than ever before, because of the mandates on the workplace to have to incorporate technology. However, Silent Traditionalists really embrace face-to-face communication. They like to touch, they like to feel an agenda or memorandum in their hand, as opposed to technology being the only vehicle of communication. So when you want to communicate with a Silent Traditionalist, you don’t want to lose that human interaction, or that face-to-face observance as a result of technological measures. So although they have embraced technology, they definitely feel that it has it’s place just as much as in-person and paperwork has its place.

As we move to the Baby Boomers, we see a [inaudible 00:06:47] difference. They are the ones that want to be in groups. They want to embrace, get to know, tag-team. They appreciate team-work and opportunities to get to know each other They much prefer to meet in a conference room and hold a conference than to attend a conference call or do a webinar. And they think we follow up with the Generation X-ers, who again traditionally were the children of the Baby Boomers, and the grandchildren of the Silent Traditionalists, who can appreciate the efforts that have been made technologically, such as digital learning options, and remote campuses for classes; however, they truly appreciate options. And sometimes options are: Would you like to take it in person? Or would you like to use technology? We absolutely see that switch with regards to Millennials and Digital Natives. But the three generations we just referenced do appreciate that face-to-face intra-person communication.

Dennis Zink:                Has there been any time in the past when there’s been five generations that have been in the workplace at the same time?

Tricia McLaurin:          Actually, this is the first time that history has recorded that we have five, active working generations. And from a human resources standpoint, that is so exciting, because the more options and exposure, the more opportunity to learn. But as with anything new, a learning curve is applied, and every day we are finding out details of information that are necessary to truly incorporate these generation gaps, and to make the workplace successful.

Dennis Zink:                Now I would think that some of the different generations would be better suited for certain types of positions than others. For example, the Silent Traditionalist might be better in human interaction, one-on-one sales, would that be correct?

Tricia McLaurin:          What we’re finding is, based on the fact that the workforce has took some turns that had not been anticipated or planned for, your Silent Traditionalist actually hold two extremes. So right now they currently hold positions such as CEOs, presidents, president emeritus, in organizations that they have been with for a long time, or have capped out in a role which they’ve held for 20-25 years as they embrace working as long as they can before retirement.

The next class of Silent Traditionalists that we see are actually returning to the workforce. So they’re actually taking on secondary careers because they’ve actually retired from their career choice, or we see them turning up in places like Wal-Mart as your greeters. Individuals were just looking to remain active, and supplement whatever other monetary income they have, but to stay focused and to stay involved with the workplace.

Dennis Zink:                We’re finding that a lot of the Silent Traditionalists inevitably become SCORE mentors.

Tricia McLaurin:          Absolutely, because they’ve gone this way before. They know what to look for, and they’re still looking to give back. They’re not ready to completely remove themselves, but rather to slow down possibly from the pace that they were working while they were pursuing their career, or with the stress that was attached to being the top, and being the one responsible. Now they’re playing the mentor roles and looking to give back, and I think we’re incredibly lucky to have such gems with such workplace experience and exposure.

Dennis Zink:                What are the dynamics amongst the groups working with each other? Does that present a problem?

Tricia McLaurin:          It presents a problem when we don’t embrace understanding. Each distinct generation gap brings its advantageous benefits to make the workplace successful. The responsibility of management and HR then becomes to identify how they can help, where their strong points are, and to provide assistance and support in some of the areas of concern. So as an HR professional, it’s important to know how they communicate best, where they have communication deficiencies, and what they’re expectation is. And I have found that once we have dedication to understanding that, embracing that, and implementing that, success is just a step away.

Dennis Zink:                Is team-building something that is an HR function that is coordinated or recommended by yourself for different generations?

Tricia McLaurin:          Absolutely. I’m working with quite a few of my clients where I’ve actually recommended forced team-building. So not only amongst employees in different departments, but amongst different generation gaps. To be able to have exposure to the different perspectives, the different ways of consideration, and the different points that have been successful for other people and other times. Team-building is something that allows you to have an appreciation for the work that is being done by a co-worker, and also incorporation about what each individual person, as well as generation gap brings to success.

Dennis Zink:                And how do the different gaps differentiate the way they view authority figures and operate within the company setting?

Tricia McLaurin:          That’s an excellent question. We actually find that there was a shift, right after your Generation X-ers and right before your Millennials. So we find that your Silent Traditionalists, your Baby Boomers, and your Generation X-ers, really have the traditional approach to looking at management and viewing authority in that, years of experience, title, and how long you’ve been dedicated to a company truly do speak to your level of respect, your level of accomplishment, and most often your level of success in terms of what position you hold and how you should be regarded.

We begin to see that paradigm shift when we work with Millennials and Digital Natives, in that they now embrace the ‘Don’t judge me for how long I’ve been here, or how loyal I’ve been, but judge me for the content of my work.’ Thereby, their authority figures and consideration of them is based on what they’ve accomplished, not how long they’ve been here and how long they’ve been dedicated. You’ll find Millennials who are looking to be supervisors and managers within one year, within six months even, while we have other generation gaps that have strived for years upon years to reach the same position that they’re working towards. And that paradigm shift has also affected how they expect to be treated. They expect things like flex days, and flexible time, because they don’t want to be judged for how long you think it takes, but individually with regards to what affect they’ve made within the workplace.

Dennis Zink:                And what do you think might be some of the greatest impacts that we’re seeing of each generation?

Tricia McLaurin:          Well, if I start from the Silent Traditionalists, by far it is their knowledge and information. They’re a walking wealth of reference. They are the ones that have been there since the company often started. Some of the key figures have seen them grow, and also have been there to see some of their mistakes. We do know if we don’t embrace the mistakes that have been made, we’re destined to repeat them. So they truly serve as an essential function in order to help us see where we’re going, because we acknowledge and understand where we’ve been.

With regards to the Baby Boomers, they actually make up the largest portion of the workforce right now. They are the ones that contributed and allowed us to have such a surplus in social security, because not only did we have males like the Silent Traditionalists, but we find in the age of Baby Boomers, females entering the workforce and providing just as much of a wonderful impact. So these are the team players, these are the ones who you can give the vision to and they will run with it, embrace it, and they’re always optimistic. They are known to be the friendliest group, and they are definitely know to be the ones to support whatever the corporate mission, vision and expectation is.

Your Generation X-ers are the entrepreneurial spirit. They’re independent thinkers, so you can trust them to take a project from start to finish with minimal supervision and get it done. They are the ones who are willing to take chances, who are willing to not only bet on the company but bet on themselves. And having said that, they will put in the work and time towards investments towards a bigger picture.

Your Millennials are perfect because they’ve always done presentations, they’ve always had to represent themselves. So they know how to communicate, they are efficient communicators, and they really embrace the technological advancements that have been made over the years. They are the ‘What’s in it for me?’ group, so they are consistently looking for a better way, a better opportunity, and therefore have been cited as very innovative, because they will find a way to get it done quicker, easier, and still have that quality about you.

And then of course we have our Digital Natives, that have shown us over and over again that without the use of user guides or going to YouTube videos for instance, they can work almost every technological gadget that there is. So they give us hope for the expansion of what technology could look like in just a few years. They are very willing to try. They have never not known technology, and so they are embracing all of the possibilities of the same.

Dennis Zink:                Tricia, it would seem to me that the different generations would be suited for specific types of positions within a company based on playing to their strengths. However, it is a moving target. And as the groups age, I’m wondering does that change, or do they still have the strengths that they were hired for?

Tricia McLaurin:          Absolutely. What we find is, within the generation gaps, your age seems to be indicative of the types of qualities that you hold. So as someone does progress in age, we start to see them take on more of the characteristics that have been identified within each specific generation gap. And don’t find that we’re going to have to rename, but we find that most times those types of qualities have been shaped based on the individuals that started that gap, and then they are passed along to the individuals that follow behind them, because they remain true.

So, the Silent Traditionalists will always be the ones that we come to, because they’ve been there the longest, they’ve gone through the struggle, and they’re aware of the successes. And we’ll always have a Digital Native. A Digital Native will be more knowledgeable in years to come, with more technological advancement, but they will always be known for those qualities. And those qualities are what you want to concentrate on, to ensure your implementation in the workforce is successful.

Dennis Zink:                It would seem to me that the Silent Traditionalists have been there, done that, just like the name of our show. But I would think that their recognition or award system is going to be far different than that of the other generations. If you could elaborate on that I’d appreciate it.

Tricia McLaurin:          Yeah, you’ve stated that very correctly. With regards to the Silent Traditionalists, they are looking for long-term benefit. Again, they began their career, their dedication, their loyalty, for the benefit of their family. So they’re looking for a longevity benefits that speak to the fundamentals of who they are: security, health insurance, and most of all appreciation. A Silent Traditionalist wants to know that you appreciate their time and their effort. They are not going to try and skirt time, or skirt responsibilities, but they want acknowledgement that ‘Yes, we see the dedication that you are doing to the job, and as a result of that, we are being dedicated in providing those primary fundamental aspects that you need to make life complete.’

As we move to the Baby Boomers, Baby Boomers, because they were out and about, because they were born in a time that it was unification, as opposed to division, they are looking for appreciation. A Baby Boomer wants to hear ‘You did a good job, and we see you.’ Public acknowledgement is one of the most special times a Baby Boomer can share. Take an opportunity amongst their family, friends, their workplace, to acknowledge them, to state their contributions, and most of all how it has been effective to helping the workplace.

The generation gaps, as we begin to the Generation X-ers, are much more looking towards more monetary things, translatable vessels or vehicles that can go with them. So, gift cards, stock options, tuition reimbursement. Things that can benefit them as a person, and then can be turned around and attributed to help the workplace.

The Millennials, as we referenced before, embrace the ‘What’s in it for me?’. And therefore, they’re expecting rewards that are particular to them. So when you want to affect a Millennial or you want to get their attention, you don’t want to talk about big picture, about how it affects the entire workplace, about how everyone benefits. You want to signify how it helps them. This is what’s in it for you, this is what it can work towards, and this is what can happen for you. And then you’ll get their buy-in. Of course, technological advancements and monetary compensation will always move them.

And finally, with the Digital Natives, it is complete removal of the interface. The options, the flexibility. Not having to do it the old way, the old-fashioned way, the expected way. But what else can they accomplish, what else can they utilize to promote themselves and get things faster, faster, faster? The faster it can be done, the quicker it can be done, the more successful they perceive it and the happier they are with it.

Dennis Zink:                Would it be true that the people involved with say, the internet, with social media, with search engine optimization and the like, are probably best hired as Millennials? Or Digital Natives?

Tricia McLaurin:          Well with regards to Millennials, as we said right now, Baby Boomers make up the largest portion of the current workforce. However, Millennials make up the largest consumer basis. So we are going to need to increase our presence of Millennials, Generation X-ers, and even potentially some Digital Natives, earlier into the workplace than ever before perceived, in order to accommodate that gap that is being left by the Baby Boomers. So the Millennials are looking for fast-paced, exciting, draw-their attention-and-keep-it, objectives, workforces, and opportunities. So since we will be reaching out to them for the ability that they bring. We need to ensure that our processes are our offerings are something that speak to them, something that is going to engage them, keep them engaged, and make them want to remain an employee. Some of those things that have now changed that have been reflected in benefits are things like work-life benefits, balanced health, fitness programs, discounts, things that speak to them as the individual and therefore understandably, make them feel like they are recognized within the workplace.

Dennis Zink:                How do the different generations process the work-play ratio?

Tricia McLaurin:          Well with regards to the Silent Traditionalists, they absolutely are of the thought that you work hard and then you play hard. That vacation is only a reward to hard work that has been put in a documented, and thereby should not be expected, should not be banked upon, but should be worked towards, and thereby given as a result of hard work.

Your Baby Boomers definitely believe that there should be an opportunity to get to that point. They have no problem with working hard, remember that their parents were the Baby Boomers, but they want to see that their opportunities and that it’s equality. Your Baby Boomers want to see that male, female, no matter the age, no matter the protected class, that those same benefit options are available to you.

As we move into the Generation X-ers, the Generation X-ers really want to see what I’ve done is what I’m deserving of. So give me an option to work with my schedule, to work with what my life looks like. Let me start the day a little bit earlier. Can I leave my day a little bit earlier? Teach me the things that I need to know, and give me an opportunity to test-out if I don’t have to know it. Or, I’ve already gotten that information from someplace else.

The Millennials definitely differ completely. Again we see this paradigm shift. And they have an expectation of: Lure me in with the benefits your providing me, and cause me to want to work hard for you based on that. What is in it for me? What are you doing for me? I should come in the door being provided with benefits, and understandably of my education, my experience, my talent. Give me that. Tell me what you’re providing me. Make me want to work for you, and make me want to turn down your competitor.

And then of course the Digital Natives are coming up. They’re considered the generation of entitlement, and therefore, they have an expectation that everything has been laid out for them and that you’re waiting for them. As opposed to them being the ones that have to be dynamic in making you appreciative and thereby giving rewards. They want that reward system and set up, ready and waiting for them, to welcome them into working hard and to show the appreciation for who they are.

Dennis Zink:                You mentioned equality, and I’m wondering, in terms of age discrimination, how companies get around that so that they’re not dealing with issues that can cause them legal problems in terms of the hiring process? Can you comment on age discrimination as it relates to the different generations and the workplace?

Tricia McLaurin:          Absolutely. Most people are not aware that the Age and Discrimination Act notates the age of 40 for the age of which discrimination can be considered based on age. And so what an employer wants to do is ensure that, if you are discounting someone in consideration for a position, that it has to do with the work objectives. Not just because of the age that they’re at, but that they haven’t incorporated, acknowledge, or possessed the skills necessary. And that’s not just that they haven’t ever done it before, but that a fair equitable test has been given and that across the board, they didn’t pick it up, they are not aware of it, or it’s not something that they are willing to do as you migrate into a new forum or a new look of a job. So you want to ensure that you are identifying what needs to be done as essential functions within the job, and then identifying the person who is most capable of doing so, and that would be with or without the proper training and exposure.

Fred Dunayer:             Tricia, do you have any thoughts on entrepreneurialism being different between the different generations?

Tricia McLaurin:          Absolutely. We saw the introduction of entrepreneurialism within the Generation X-ers. However, as I noted before, they are known as the bitter generation because they had to experience and live through the dot-com failure. So although they were the independent thinkers who were embracing enough of my own, they were not met with success for that. So that has left a lot of bitterness within that generation. We do see that picked up again with Millennials, who did not have to experience that devastation. So they have embraced it even before. A lot of Millennials have parents that started their own business, whether successful or not, and they saw them step out, and they’ve almost embraced it as the next step. You do well at a job, you learn what you need to learn, and then you branch out. You take those skills, education, and training, and you make it successful for you, back to the ‘What’s in it for me?’ again.

And then the presence of Digital Natives, I can’t say how much, more than ever before, we’ve seen children starting their own business, coming up with ideas on how to do things if for no other reason than they want money now. For things that you used to have to wait until you were much older to want to purchase, or have a want for. So we see the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well in some youngsters, who are now being noted, and it’s not any longer a thing of strangeness. It’s now ‘Do you want it? Do you have the opportunity to do it? Will you be dedicated? Then, the sky is the limit.’ So I believe that as the generations continue to grow, we’re going to see that more and more. Younger CEOs, younger presidents of companies, and an opportunity to say, no this was non-existent so I created it and now we have it.

Dennis Zink:                Has there been anything that we haven’t talked about, or some points that you want to stress as we bring this discussion to a close?

Tricia McLaurin:          I’d be happy to review some things with regards to the generation gaps that we haven’t looked at. The first one is, don’t allow any of the generations to feel as though they are more important. Each one brings a very relevant, very necessary aspect to the workplace. And embrace, it will make sure that your workplace is very successful.

Some of the things that the generations really are known for in terms of deficiencies that you want to be aware of: So, the Silent Traditionalists are known to keep secrets. They’re the ones that are known to not say anything. So very often, things break down, things could be better worked, better utilized, and your Silent Traditionalists will not be the ones to make you aware of that. So there may be some deficiencies, some opportunities for advancement that have been overlooked. So have those conversations with your Silent Traditionalists. Empower them to bring to the forefront if there are things that have been going wrong that they kind of held together for a while, and utilize that for increase.

As far as your Baby Boomers, we definitely want to prepare for them. As I said, they currently hold about 45% of the workplace. We need to be doing some job-shadowing, and getting ourselves prepared as they maneuver out of the workplace or into upper-echelon positions for who will replace them, and will they be ready to take on the responsibilities and the job tasks that they have been doing for all of this time.

With regards to your Generation X-ers, you always want to remember to give them an option. Even if one of the options is, if we do it this way it won’t work. The one thing the Generation X-ers hate is you making the choice for them. So, if given an opportunity, incorporate as many options as possible. Remember to be strategic in helping them to identify which is the most prevalent and the most advantageous option, but offer them options nonetheless.

With your Millennials, remember to stay away from big picture, and engage them. Millennials like it fast, bright, exciting, and energetic. They are not the ones that will sit in an eight-hour conference. They’d much rather join a conference call or Web-X than come to the board room and have a meeting.

So remember to incorporate all phases if you can. If you’re going to, for instance, have a job posting, post an actual, physical paper, send it out on the internet, make phone calls, do word-of-mouth. Be able to reach out to all of these generations if possible.

And then finally for your Digital Natives, you want to embrace some of the fundamentals that we automatically assume. Some statistics show now that these Digital Natives cannot tell time unless its digital, and don’t know how to make change without the use of electronics. So some of the things that were core fundamentals to us, they are no longer being pushed to do. Remember to take that time and incorporate that, because if you’re turning over to them some of the reigns of the company, you’re going to need to know that they’re speaking the same language as you, and embracing the same fundamentals that you are.

Overall, I think that understanding these generation gaps, and applying these tools, can make your workplace successful. It is not scary that this is the first time in history, it is welcomed. And I do believe that we can all be successful by identifying, implementing, and embracing. This is the best time that we’ve ever had. Five generations, present and accounted for. Let’s make it work for us.

Fred Dunayer:             But let’s do remember that these are stereotypes, right? And that we do need to remember to consider each individual on their own merits.

Tricia McLaurin:          Absolutely. The characteristics that we speak to overwhelmingly are a part of the generation, and have been seen amongst most of the individuals. But person to person, they’re going to differ. And we also have individuals known as cuspers, who are those born right between gaps, and therefore can relate to one or two (generations) at the same time. We don’t want to base our business practices on expectation or even characteristic identifications, but we want to use that knowledge to help frame how we interact. We want to be respectful of what they’ve been exposed to, and what they’re expecting, so we can create a great employer-employee relationship.

Dennis Zink:                Well Tricia, thank you very much for being our guest today on Been There, Done That!, and enlightening our audience on general characteristics in hiring and managing employees. Very interesting conversation.

Tricia McLaurin:          Thank you. It has been my pleasure and I do appreciate the invitation.

Fred Dunayer:             Thank you Tricia.

Fred Dunayer:             You’ve been listening to the SCORE Small Business Success Podcast, Been There, Done That! The opinions of the guests and hosts are theirs, and do not necessarily reflect those of SCORE. If you’d like to hear more podcasts, get a free mentor, view a transcript of this podcast, or would like more information on the services we provide, you can call SCORE at 800-634-0245, or visit our website at

Again, that’s 800-634-0245, or visit the website at


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