BY DIANNE DURKIN
children struggling to leave their mark. Their values were
shaped by Watergate, the Challenger disaster, terrorism and
computers. In many cases, both their parents worked. They
are the plugged-in children who surfed the Web, played video
games and watched MTV—with a chronic need for stimulation and instant gratification.
In the workplace, Xers hate micromanagement. They
want to be told what is expected of them, provided with
appropriate feedback and empowered to get the job done.
Discouraged and disheartened when they saw their parents being laid off, they want to work on their own terms
and aim to have a balance between their personal and
CREATING AND MAINTAINING A HIGH-PERFORMING STAFF
is at the core of nearly every business strategy. With the four
distinct generations in today’s workforce having different values, needs and motivations, the pressures on employee commitment are compounded, and the stakes are much higher.
Currently, Generation X and Nexters make up about
45 percent of the workforce. Together, these 18-to-41-year-
old individuals equal the Baby Boomers, while the Veteran
generation makes up the final 10 percent. To ensure long-term employee loyalty, enterprises need to learn about each
of these generational groups, their needs and motivations.
VETERANS (born between 1922–1944)
Their values, shaped by the Great Depression, the New Deal,
World War II and the Korean War, emphasize civic pride,
loyalty, respect for authority, dedication, sacrifice, conformity, honor and discipline.
This generation is driven by duty before pleasure. In the
workforce, they are stable, loyal, hard-working and employed
with their company for 30 years or more. To them, work is
a privilege: They respect the institutions and their leaders,
believing that work and sacrifice pay off in the long term.
Veterans seek a directive leadership style, with clearly defined
goals, directions and measurements designated by the leader.
BASELINE JULY/AUGUST 2010
BABY BOOMERS (born 1945–1963)
The 74 million-strong Boomers were raised in an era of
optimism, opportunity and progress—with values shaped
by the moon landing, the Peace Corps, the Vietnam War,
Woodstock and the Civil Rights Movement. They are determined to do better than their parents and provide their children with everything their hearts desire.
Many are the first college graduates in their families and
go the extra mile on the job. Boomers—who have the distinction of having invented the 60-hour workweek—achieve
their identity through the work they perform.
NEXTERS (born 1980–2000)
High-tech shaped the Nexters’ value systems. They are
well-traveled, global citizens, and a lot of them speak second languages. Many Nexters are recent graduates who
grew up in households with hyper-involved parents and
In the workplace, Nexters speak out. They will walk
right into the CEO’s office and let their opinions be known.
Although viewed by many in the workforce as lacking a
strong work ethic and having an unjustified sense of entitlement, they have a positive, can-do attitude about getting
the job done well and efficiently. They aim to make things
happen, hate indecision and want to move on to do the
things they enjoy.
With this broad field of individuals populating the business world, it has become more difficult to recruit and retain
a high-performing workforce. Studies show that, across the
generations, 85 percent of the workforce wants to be given
the means and the motivation to continually improve and
grow. Younger employees will leave their jobs quickly if they
are not challenged, valued and developed.
To keep employees engaged, organizations must involve
staff in identifying and helping to solve major business issues.
Ask, listen, engage and empower are the key strategies for
creating a high-performing workforce of the future.
To successfully integrate the various generations—
and achieve employee loyalty and translate it to customer
and brand loyalty—organizations must take the following
• Build and promote a learning environment conducive to
attracting and retaining a cross-section of individuals.
• Establish a strategic vision for motivating, coaching and
developing diverse employees.
• Create a variety of learning and development experiences that engage and empower individuals to achieve
shared business objectives. J
GEN XERS (born 1964–1979)
The Xers came of age during the economic wars of the
1970s and 1980s. Sandwiched between the ubiquitous Baby
Boomers and the privileged Nexters, they are the middle
Dianne Durkin is president and founder of Loyalty Factor, a training and management consulting firm based in Portsmouth, N.H.
Durkin is the author of The Loyalty Advantage.