What are the generations? Understand their behavioral characteristics


quais são as gerações


Have you ever thought about the generations within your audience or your employees? Do you know which generation dominates today’s landscape? It might seem simple, but having this information can help you understand the behavior, desires, and opportunities with these diverse groups.

Classifying individuals by generation is a practice widely adopted by companies aiming to tailor their messaging and solutions according to the behavioral traits of specific generations, enabling them to stand out in the competitive market.

Furthermore, this classification is quite useful in understanding how individuals navigate the workforce based on the generation to which they belong.

In this article, we will delve into the X, Y, Z, Baby Boomers, and Alpha generations, along with their characteristics and distinct features.

What are the generations, and how is this classification done?

Worldwide, there is a consensus on categorizing individuals into five generations, according to the birth period of each person: baby boomers, generation X, Y (millennials), Z and Alpha.

For instance, baby boomers were born between 1945 and 1964, named due to a sudden increase in birth rates following World War II. 

Next came generation X, spanning from 1965 to 1984.

Generation Y consists of those born between 1985 and 1999. Finally, we have generation Z, born from 2000 onward, and generation Alpha, born post 2010.

However, more than just a chronological classification, generations are determined by the shared behaviors of those born in the same era. This is not an arbitrary classification but the result of extensive behavioral analysis. We will delve into this further in the following sections.

The rationale is that various factors, especially technology, have influenced the behavior of people born in the same era, shaping how they work and consume products.

Behavioral characteristics of generation X, Y (millennials), Z, Baby boomers and Alpha

Let’s delve into the behavioral traits of these generations chronologically:

  • generation Baby boomers;
  • generation X;
  • generation Y;
  • generation Z;
  • generation Alpha.

Baby boomers: how they are, characteristics, and behavior

Baby boomers earned their name as they were a result of a post-World War II population explosion when returning U.S. veterans settled down and started families.

Those belonging to this generation (the children of these veterans and their contemporaries) are currently between 55 and 75 years old.

In their youth, baby boomers highly valued work and sought to build wealth and maintain stable careers, often remaining with the same employer for decades until retirement. This work ethic, born in the USA, spread to many countries worldwide.

For this generation, work experience was more highly prized than creativity and innovation. This was mainly because, at the time, job market competition was less fierce, and there were not as many career options as we have today.

Generation X: how they are, characteristics, and behavior

Generation X, currently aged between 36 and 55, grew up during the Cold War era and was the first to experience technological advancements. Individuals in this group were born from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s.

Professionally, individuals from generation X tend to be less audacious. They place significant value on climbing the corporate ladder within their respective organizations and often remain with the same company for an extended period.

Another important characteristic of this generation is that they were the first to witness both parents going to work, making them generally responsible for household matters.

Moreover, members of generation X prefer not to be micromanaged. They like to grasp the entire business process, seeking independence and individuality while still cherishing the importance of teamwork.

With a more conservative outlook, generation X is often seen as a reliable choice for leadership roles within companies. Therefore, if your market targets managers and leaders, understanding generation X can significantly enhance your selling approach.

Additional characteristics of generation X include:

  • Adaptability to change: generation X grew up during a time of rapid technological and social change, making them more adaptable to evolving environments. They often find it relatively easy to adjust to new technologies and processes.
  • Work-life balance: moreover, generation X was one of the first to seek a healthy work-life balance. They highly value time spent with family, hobbies, and other activities outside the workplace.
  • Value of experience: generation X also places a high value on accumulated experience over time. They believe that their career path and achievements should be acknowledged.
  • Appreciation of stability: despite their adaptability, many members of generation X also appreciate job stability and security.

Generation Y: how they are, characteristics, and behavior

The behavior of generation Y in the job market is quite different from what we observe in generation X. Millennials, as they are also known, are more demanding when it comes to the roles they perform and are less hesitant to leave a job for something that truly brings them professional and personal satisfaction.

According to a study by Mind Miners, 33% of satisfied millennials with their current job admit to the possibility of changing jobs within two years. However, among individuals from generation X, this percentage drops to 20%.

Furthermore, according to the same research, salary is the primary consideration when choosing a job, both for generation X (61%) and generation Y (65%).

The values upheld by millennials are much more focused on experiences than material acquisitions. In other words, they are less concerned with building wealth, owning a house and car compared to generation X and baby boomers.

For generation Y, teamwork takes precedence over hierarchy, and they are constantly in pursuit of innovation.

Another important point is that generation Y prefers clear instructions for their work. Regarding goal management, managers should know that this generation likes to receive feedback but prefers to make their own decisions.

Learn more: The millennial approach to project work – opportunities and challenges for management

Generation Z: how they are, characteristics, and behavior

Finally, concluding our explanation of the generations, we arrive at generation Z. 

While millennials grew up amidst the digital transformation, generation Z (also known as centennials) was born into this digitally connected world.

Known for their short attention spans, centennials tend to be multitaskers, independent, and demanding in both their consumption choices and the roles they take on in companies, despite just entering the job market. It is believed that the positions generation Z will occupy have not even been created yet.

Immediacy is another hallmark of generation Z; they want everything right now. Additionally, generation Z struggles somewhat with socializing outside the virtual realm.

It is correct to say that the last thing they want is to spend their entire lives performing the same role or working for the same company.

Generation Alpha

While they are not old enough to hold positions within companies yet, the most recent generation is Alpha. Born from 2010 onwards, they are even more immersed in technology. For these children, it is quite common to hear phrases like “they can’t read yet, but they can navigate to YouTube on my phone.”

Although they do not operate within organizations, it is essential to be aware that this upcoming generation is even more focused on flexibility, autonomy, and possesses significant potential for collaborative problem-solving.

Next steps

What are the generations? Now that you know it, and it is clearer what the main characteristics of generation X, Y (millennials), Z, alpha and baby boomers are; it is crucial to realize that just as important as knowing the generations is understanding how they behave.

This makes it easier to engage with your consumer audience and employees.

You may also be interested: The importance of employee development for successful businesses

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Want to discover your employees’ potential, regardless of the generation they belong to? Then check out our article 9 Box Matrix: how can this methodology contribute to retaining talent?

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