The WashingtonExec Strategic Human Capital Council Tackles the 4 Generations in the Workforce

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Kay Curling (Salient CRGT), Steve Woolwine (AECOM), Aggie Hassan

CHRO of Salient CRGT Kay Curling and Human Resources expert Aggie Hassan spoke with the WashingtonExec Strategic Human Capital Council on the topic of the 4 generations that comprise today’s workforce and how generational differences in communication, learning, and motivation should be addressed by every organization.

Curling and Hassan began their discussion by giving broad profiles of how an individual born within each generation may conduct his or herself professionally. They also explained how each of these generations are shaped by the major events or inventions of their time.

The first and least discussed generation, the Silent Generation, are in large part shaped by the Great Depression. Curling and Hassan described them as hard workers, loyal to their companies, and frugal. The second generation discussed, the Baby Boomers, are shaped by such events as Watergate and the Vietnam War. They are considered to be team-oriented, highly driven, and competitive. The Baby Boomers also fit the “workaholic” stereotype and enjoy formal recognition for professional success.

The third generation, Generation X, is the generation that is and will continue to move into leadership positions this decade. Generation X was privy to the AIDS crisis and the Challenger explosion. Curling and Hassan described X’ers as more casual, independent, technologically inclined, and focused on immediate rewards.

The last generation, the Millennials, are the generation that we see entering into the workforce today. The Millennials, shaped by such events the rapid advance of technology and terrorism, are described as goal-oriented, impatient, highly educated and organized multitaskers. Millennials are also more focused on “career moving” rather than climbing the “career ladder”, unlike the Baby Boomer generation.

Curling and Hassan explained that in order for the generations to work smoothly together, it is important for professionals to learn to check their generational biases. One example given was Boomers and X’ers not understanding why Millennials chose to work on a variety of tasks all at once.

“Don’t worry if Millennials are Facebooking and listening to music while working. All that matters is if their product is timely and good quality,” said Kay Curling, Strategic Human Capital Council Founding Chairperson. This is the world they have grown up in. They were successful in their education to this point. Now it’s time to engage them in learning about their careers and the business without constraining them by our own biases. Focus on the performance. That’s what matters,” said Kay Curling, Founding Chairperson of the WashingtonExec Strategic Human Capital Council.

The Council is led by Chairperson Steve Woolwine, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at AECOM. Each participating government contracting company sponsors a human resource executive and nominates one critical talent individual for this WashingtonExec Council. This one-of-a-kind group allows the VP of HR the opportunity to help develop the next generation of HR leadership while building their respective professional networks.


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