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Straddling the Intergenerational Divide

Jim Taggart

Delta Partners is pleased to release its first e-book: Leadership and the Intergenerational Divide: Issues, Trends & Solutions.

Today’s post was written by Consulting Associate Jim Taggart, and also the author of the e-book. Several of the e-book’s key messages are shared in this post. An ageing population presents unique leadership challenges to organizations. That the four generations composing the workforce possess very different values and expectations adds to these challenges.

-Alcide DeGagné


The organizational leadership challenge arising from an ageing population is enormous, but not impossible. Within organizations, managing and leading in the context of a four inter-generational workforce is not for the faint-hearted. Indeed, leading people during a period of rapid globalization and uncertainty is not for the squeamish.

Some might argue that the workforce has always comprised several generations. Yes it has. However, what characterized the post-World War Two workforce was the mounting influence and impact of the Baby Boom generation, born between 1948 and 1966, some 10 million strong.

Although Boomers are beginning to retire, now that many are in their early sixties, more and more are electing to remain in the labor force. These reasons include financial (result of the recession and financial meltdown), the desire to keep contributing to society and a longer life span. On the top edge of the Boomers sit the Silent Generation (65 plus), some of whom also wish to keep working. This aspect is more prominent in the U.S.

Snapping at the heels of Boomers is Gen X, labelled for its having to live in the Boomers’ shadow and for feeling excluded. This generation ranges in age from about 31 to 43, and is steadily moving into management positions in organizations. Gen X is impatiently awaiting the Boomers’ exodus from the labor market. They want to leave their own mark on society and in the organizations where they work.

Traintracks-275x184Gen Y was flattened by the Great Recession, especially in the U.S. Born after 1994, this generation is now facing the reality that the hoopla that was being made a few years ago about their fantastic job opportunities was just that. They carry large student loan debts, compete with much more experienced and well-educated workers, and find that their work values and approaches are vastly different from those of Boomers.

And then there’s Gen Z, born after 1995 and who will soon start to enter the labour force. This means that North America is looking soon at a workforce spanning five generations. It’s reasonable to assume that older workers will remain in the labor force for some time due to forecasted modest economic growth over the next several years, heavy consumer indebtedness and longevity.

What does this mean for organizations in how they confront the many issues that globalization and technological change are presenting? Divisiveness and intolerance among the generations is a recipe for corporate disaster.

There are two paths when it comes to how people will work together in the future: either people continue maintaining the fences and silos around their respective generations, or they flatten these barriers and figure out how to collaborate. There’s an enormous amount at stake, with respect to the future of Canada and the U.S.

At the heart of this is leadership, how it’s perceived and practiced within organizations and communities. Effective leaders tear down barriers to communication and collaboration, articulate a shared vision of the future through enrolling others in its creation, take action to make things happen, and sustain this action over the long-term.

Take some time to reflect on these two questions:

  • Where do YOU stand personally on the challenges facing society and organizations from the perspective of an ageing population and the implications for leadership?
  • Do you wish to play a role in finding solutions, whether it’s dealing with mushrooming healthcare costs, encouraging the elderly to remain an active part of society, coaching Gen Y or becoming an inter-generational barrier buster?

For a fuller discussion on the issues and challenges facing organizations as a result of an ageing population, please read Delta Partners’ new e-book or if you are interested in the readiness level of your organization take the Intergenerational Organizational Readiness Assessment.


Hi Jim,

Your eBook covers this subject so well and with such profundity that I thought readers would enjoy another recent blog post that illustrates how big a shock the intergen issues is, particularly for boomers. Read 10 things boomer managers shouldn’t have to give up and enjoy!

By Alcide DeGagn on 2011/02/24

Thanks Alcide. Yes, I read Dan McCarthy’s post when it came out a few weeks. It’s humorous yet has a lot of truth. On the inter-gen subject, Strategy & Business’ recent newsletter talks about Generation ‘C.’ It’s the first time I’ve heard this expression used. Check it out.

By Jim Taggart on 2011/02/24

This comment has been moderated due to language and content.

At Delta Partners we welcome criticism and constructive dialogue, however we do expect that the participants on our blog will meet a minimal level of decorum.


By Chimusoro on 2011/04/13

Chimusoro, perhaps you would like to articulate your position a little more clearly.

By Jim Taggart on 2011/04/13

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Posted by Jim Taggart
Posted on February 18, 2011

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Categories: culture, hr & talent management, leadership, management