Generational Differences Training

I recently completed and delivered a new training on Generational Differences for my agency. In the spirit of cooperation and openness I would love to share it with the GovLoop community!


The training involved participants from a single office within my agency. Being highly interactive, it led to some very interesting conversations as to what our office can do to improve cross generational communications, use of new media, transition planning for older employees, and other related issues.

These discussions are extremely important in order to improve our operations and assure we upholding the public interests efficiently and effectively.

If you have any questions or comments related to this, please let me know. As a new training, I’m sure it would benefit from some constructive criticism.

Thanks to other govies for great initial thoughts and activities! (I’m looking at you MDA and Andrew Krzmarzick)

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Pat Fiorenza

This was a great presentation – interesting for me to think about as a millennial and how I have been working in group projects this semester. I’ve been doing a lot of group projects this semester with people from all different generations – for sure noticed differences how we all interact, this presentation will help me communicate better! Thanks for sharing.

Scott Span


Great content. I’m glad to hear you got some inputs from Andy (he and I presented on this topic at the Next Generation Government Summit 2010). One thing I noticed, you didn’t group Gen Y as their own generation. In my work on cross generational engagement and communication I always break them into their own category as they tend to share traits from both Gen X and Millennials but have distinct characteristics. Curious, any reason you left them out as a stand alone?

I also noticed you pulled from the Pew study, I thought that to be a great resource and have quoted it in my generational training as well. I really like the interactive design of your workshop. As I’ve found, the key to reducing these type of stigmas and barriers and misconceptions is to get the different generations talking!

Anna Abbey

Hi Scott,

Great to hear from you! In all of my readings, Generation Y was considered an early label for Millennials that has fallen out of favor (perhaps due to the implication that they were merely what came after X). No doubt those of us sitting at the cusp of generational shifts share traits with both, but I haven’t seen them called out as a distinct group. Do you have any resources I can look at to understand Gen Y as a separate group?

Boomers on the other hand, seem to have two sub-cohorts with unique traits. This I mentioned briefly, but didn’t go into detail on due to mostly timing. As the groups interacted, it became clear that this distinction would have helped in the overall discussions. Younger boomers tended to self identify with Gen X despite their year of birth and skewed the Gen X conversation away from the real issues of that generation. A poignant depiction of what often happens to Gen X in real life.

Andrea Schneider

Hi Anna,

Thanks for posting your presentation in the “Who Runs the Show Group”. I really liked it and can see how it can be used to spark discussion. I’m curious what you’ve run across in terms of managing across the generations. You hinted at it and I think it probably impacts a lot of people. Ditto on career tracking, etc.

Excellent job, I enjoyed each slide!


Scott Span

Sure Anna, I have many resources, several resources that come to mind:

-Not Everyone Gets a Trophy, How to Manage Gen Y: Bruce Tulgan
-When Reality Hits: Nancy Barry
-Retiring the Generation Gap: Jennifer Deal
-Also, if you have not seen it, the presentation from NGG10:
-You can also feel free to see my Gen Y related blogs:

I hear your point on those of us on the cusp, as I myself am on the cusp of X and Y and also identify with the Millennials. That said, my research (and my direct conversations with my generational advisory panel formed of folks from multiple generations) does yield some distinct differences between Gen Y and other generations, and has yielding they are a generation with a distinct identity. I’d love to hear more (feel free to contact me offline) regarding your observations of Boomer cohorts.

Anna Abbey

I am really intrigued by the idea of two distinct generations (Gen Y and Millennials). How would you differentiate between the two? Are they born in different time frames? Or are they distinct groups within the same time frame?

According to the resources you cite, there seems to be a lack of consensus on the matter.

Not Everyone Gets a Trophy considers Gen Y as consisting of anyone born after 1978, which is well within the range of timeframes I’ve seen for Millennials.

When Reality Hits, I couldn’t get a hold of…but Nancy Barry is a self proclaimed Gen Y expert and this book is about recent college grads, so I have to assume she’s talking about the same group I have labeled as Millennials.

Jenifer Deal in Retiring the Generation Gap uses neither Gen Y nor Millennial, but instead refers to Late X’ers- born between 1977 and 1986. She likewise refers to Early and Late Boomers which is the issue I drew your attention to. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, so I’m excited to learn more about the two Boomer category theory and how she distinguishes between the early and late X’ers.

In the NGG10 presentation, you refer to Gen Y/ Millennials from 1979-2000… the way it’s written leads me to believe these are two terms used interchangeably for the same cohort.

I chose to use the term Millennials over Gen Y largely due to personal preference, though I acknowledge there is a split in terms of what gets used. As a high school graduate in the year 2000, I remember discussion about this new cohort of Millennials (those coming of age in the new Millennium)…and I think that term just resonated with me more.

And as for resources (this is for you Angela!), the Pew study is quite interesting…but so is Managing the Millennials, by Chip Espinoza, Mick Ukleja and Craig Rusch. This was the most thought provoking and engaging book I read on how to manage Millennials. Most importantly it was the only one that seemed to be able to break through the stereotypes and show a path forward for improved management without being outright offensive to me (as a member of my generation).

Scott Span

Happy to go into more details offline, as mentioned. And not to sound anti Millennial but I think we have some great things to actually “talk” about. =) My intent was to provide several resources with varying views on the topic.

Briefly, per your points:

-Some people choose to lump the tail end of Gen Y with the Millennials or prefer to target the majority of their workforce that can fit into the category, so for those audiences (such as at NGG10) I usually comply, with the caveat that the first half of Gen Y (me) is not necessarily the same in traits and desires as the last half and therefore may not be so easily grouped or identified with the Millennials as the latter half. To me, a true Millennial is exactly that, a person born on or after 2000, though you won’t find that in much of the literature. I’ve also noticed that many Gen Y folks do not like to be categorized and Millennials and vice versa. Perhaps due to the stigmas both generations carry. Boomers: 46-64, Xers: 65-78, Yers: 79-99. Millennials: 2000-today.

-Per Nancy Barry’s book, yes she is talking about recent college grads. The perspective however is interesting. In reading it you can see distinct traits and advice of both Gen Y and Millennials. If in speaking to folks from both groups some will identify with the Gen Y traits and laugh at the Millennial traits and advice and vice versa. It shows some overlap, but also differences and varying perspectives applicable in today’s workforce.

-I shared Jennifer Deal as a resource because of the point your raised in your previous comment regarding early and late boomers, and thus why I was curious to hear your thoughts on the topic and see if they synced with hers and others I’ve read/heard. I would also note, Gen Y has 2 distinct cohorts as well.

-I’ve read the Pew study, and I’m always up to read more data I think applicable, so will take a look at the sources you cite. Thanks for sharing.

Anna Abbey

Ah! It sounds like we are talking about the same group then…just using different nomenclature. That helps clear things up for me!

Happy to chat more offline at some point. I’m looking forward to digging into Jennifer Deal’s book. Have you looked at Generations: History of America’s Future: 1584 to 2069? From what I gather, it hypothesises continual repetitive waves in generational types that reach throughout history. I haven’t read through it yet, but it’s next on my list.

Scott Span

No problem, as you know from your work in this area, using different language is often part of the communication confusion that occurs between generations =). I look forward to reading your thoughts on Generations: History of America’s Future: 1584 to 2069, I have not yet read it.

Margaret Schneider Ross

Hi Anna,

I attended your recent generational differences training, and thought it was great. I especially appreciated the discussions between boomers and millenials (or Gen Yers, depending on who you listen to, I guess). It seemed to me that the boomers went into government with the expectation (not the hope) that they would change the world. These were the folks who undertook to end the Vietnam war, create the Great Society, and participate in the Reagan revolution. All big, significant challenges/changes to the status quo.

Now, the Millenials seem to have the exact same expectation. I, for one, can’t wait to see what you get up to. 🙂

Labels aside, my most important learning from this discussion was the clear idenitfication of the types of problems that the revolution in communication technologies presents in a multigenerational workplace. Changes in expectations of privacy, availability of information, size of communication networks, how embedded technological tools should be in our lives, and how to determine whether something is appropriately formal/well researched/well executed are all issues that society at large has to deal with.

It would be a huge shame if these issues were couched only as generational differences, and not societal changes that we all have to live with, deal with, and help to define.

At any rate, my greatest praise for you is that never once did the class fall prey to a condescending stereotypes that abound in other training. Yes, there are some millenials who seem to believe that the world should revolve around them, but, to be frank, they are neither representative of their generation as a whole, nor are they endemic to Millenials. They exist in fair shares of every generation, so far as I can tell, and I’ve met my fair share of boomers and Xers who believe the world should revolve around them, too.

They’re all equally annoying.

PS. I loved managing the millenials, and recommended it to my husband and several friends, who all manage millenials. It’s really helpful.

C Porche

How does this apply overseas? some cultures have barely moved forward with technological advances thriving only at the periphery of their communities. Eastern Europe, West Africa, East Asia etc. I can not image where to scale such analysis for

Singapore not Japan

Margaret Schneider Ross

I don’t know what Anna or Scott would say, but my guess is that we’re talking about American generations, and that these labels wouldn’t be applicable in another country/culture.

One non-international example of how cultural contexts impact generational differences: At Anna’s training, I was the only person who grew up in California. My experience was fairly drastically different from that of my age cohort who grew up in the Northeast of the US. In some cases I had more in common with the early boomers than I did with my own group. Same country, but generalizations didn’t really work – our cultures were too different.

Birth rates are growing in some countries, falling in others. Governments, economies, environments, religions…all of these things impact generational differences, and aren’t really transferrable. Thoughts, oh guru’s of generational differences?

Faye Newsham

I am a boomer/x cusp but frequently find more in common with the millennials. Not sure what that says about me but I think all of us on cusps feel left out and/or marginalized by the steretyped discussions. You’ve succeeded in avoiding that which I really appreciate! I think my career is characterized by working outside of the norm for my sex, age, background, etc. I have kids who are in their late teens and arn’t much younger than the folks I routeinely work with. It gives me some insight to both sets! I enjoy the communication challenges and sometimes act as interpreter for different generations. Now I just have to figure out how to package that! lol Thanks for a great presentation and great conversations here.

Tim J. Clark

I’m a Boomer with two adult sons – one Generation X and one Millennial who both work in the private sector. I thought the presentation was pretty accurate. Insight on the generational differences has helped us help each other regarding working through the challenges in our respective work places.

I think a common challenge in any workplace is sharing and working towards a common vision/purpose that makes getting along, understanding each other and creating the needed synergy, a necessity.

Anna Abbey

Thank you all for your comments!!

C Porch: In my view there are many aspects of culture that build on one another to make each of us unique individuals. Generational differences is but one of many elements of what makes us who we are. The generations represented in the presentation are from the American perspective.

I haven’t looked into generations across the world much yet, but I did come across a study done by Deloitte that showcases some of the many generations from countries all over the world. Talking About Whoose Generation

I hope that helps!