Understanding the Generational Differences

By: Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, ANR in Tuscarawas County

We hear about and read labels for different generations and we know there are differences among them.  What do the differences mean if you are managing people from different generations?  Depending upon the publication you read or with whom you speak, there may be a slight difference in birth start and end years, but the following table provides some general guidelines.

Generation Name Births Start Births End Age Range
Baby Boomer 1946 1964 72 – 54 yrs. old
Generation X (the lost generation) 1965 1985 53 – 33 yrs. Old
Generation Y (Millenials) 1980 1994 38 – 24 yrs. Old
Generation Z

(the unknown)

1995 2012 23 – 6 yrs. Old
Generation Alpha 2013 2025 5


Each generation has its thoughts, beliefs, and ideals with respect to a number of items.  What are the differences with respect to employment?  It’s not accurate or fair to say that every person who falls into a particular generational category is the same.  However, general statements can be made about each generation.

Generational Differences:

  Baby Boomers Generation X Generation Y
Business Focus Long Hours Productivity Contribution
Work Ethic & Values Loyal

Question authority

Strive to be their best

Value ambition, collaboration, equality, personal growth, & teamwork

Work efficiently

Want respect from younger workers

Willing to take risks

Care more about work/life balance

Work/family balance is important

Like a casual work environment

Outcome oriented

Output focused

Rely on technology

Work ethic no longer mandates 10 hr. work days

Criticized for not being loyal to a particular job/employer

Believe technology allows them to work flexibly

Work ethic no longer mandates 10 hr. work days

High expectation to be mentored

Goal oriented

Looking for meaningful work

Obsessed with career development

Prefer diversity, informality, technology, and fun

Thrive on collaboration

Training is important

Preferred Work Environment Humane

Equal opportunity

Warm, friendly

Functional, positive, & fun

Fast paced & flexible

Access to leadership

Access to information





Fun, flexible, want continuous feedback

 Work is…  Exciting

A career

Work & then retire

Difficult challenge

Just a job

A means to an end


Flexible work arrangements

What They are Looking for in a Job Ability to “shine”

Make a contribution

Team approach

Need clear and concise job expectations

Dynamic leaders

Cutting edge with technology

Flexible scheduling

Input valued on merit, not age/seniority

Must see the reason for the task

Want to be challenged

Treated with respect

Friendly environments

Flexible scheduling

Expect to be paid well

Want to make a difference

As a product of the “drop down and click menu”, may need to be given options

Work Ethic Driven

Workaholic – 60 hr. weeks



Not work long hours




What’s next?



View on Work/Life Balance Hesitant to take time off – result is an imbalance between work & family More focus on maintaining a balance

Don’t worry about losing their place if they take time off

Flex time, job sharing

Balance work, life, and community involvement

(Source: www.wmfc.org/uploads/GenerationalDifferencesChart)


So what does this mean for agricultural employers?

  • The Baby Boomer generation is reaching retirement age.
  • Generations X and Y have a different outlook on work and family life as compared to previous generations. The more recent generations place a greater value on maintaining a balance between family and work.  Workers in these generations are less likely to willingly work extra hours.  They are not workaholics like the Baby Boomer generation.
  • Flexibility is a key word when it comes to Generation X and Y. Members of this generation want to be able to attend their son or daughter’s baseball game or have dinner with their family and then return to work.
  • Money may not be the motivating factor for some in Generation X or Y. Members in these groups often want flex scheduling, to collaborate with others, and not perform routine tasks.
  • Generations X and Y have a greater focus on technology. This can be a real plus to a farm as the use of technology grows.  These generations are much more familiar with and accepting of technology.
  • Generations Z and Alpha are too young to make any conclusions. However, we do know that these generations are heavily focused on technology.  Stay tuned…

The article is an introduction to the topic of understanding the differences across the generations.  Each generation brings with it challenges and opportunities.  As you think about your next employee or the next generation to enter your business, what factors must you consider? Use the information provided here as you plan for additions to your farm team.

(Sources: www.wmfc.org/uploads/GenerationalDifferencesCharthttps://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/09/21/8-ways-generation-z-will-differ-from-millennials-in-the-workplace/#34be355576e5)

(Note: This article was published originally in the Farm and Dairy, July 26, 2018)


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