Leading Across Generations

Leading Across Generations

Freya Owen

Freya Owen

Research Consultant

Andy Patterson

Andy Patterson

Partner and Head of Research

The world within which we grow up shapes us in fundamental ways. Whilst not the complete picture, understanding how historical moments shape generations will lead to a better appreciation of why an individual thinks, feels and behaves the way they do.

Harnessing this understanding will lead to a more inclusive and better managed workplace and will improve talent retention and recruitment.

Who are the different generations?

While categorizations vary across the globe l, it is generally understood that there are up to four generations in the workplace at present:

*Age in 2023

As of 2023, the majority of the global workforce is made up of Generation X and Millennials, demonstrated below by the workforces of the United Kingdom, United States, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Notes: US data – Bureau of Labor Statistics; generations split as follows: Baby Boomers (60+), Gen X (40-59), Millennials (25-39), Gen Z (16-24). UK data – ONS; Baby Boomers (65+), Gen X (50-65 plus half of workers aged 35-49), Millennials (25-34 plus half of workers aged 35-49), Gen Z (16-24). Hong Kong data – Census & Statistics Department; Baby Boomers (60+), Gen X (40-59), Millennials (25-39), Gen Z (15-24). Singapore data Ministry of Manpower; Baby Boomers (60+), Gen X (40-59), Millennials (25-39), Gen Z (15-24). 

The proportion of the workforce made up by Baby Boomers is enduring more so than previous generations. This is due to both medical advances enabling people to live healthier for longer, and workplace changes allowing people to work with greater ease i.e., remotely.

Meanwhile the proportion of the workforce made up by Generation Z is increasing, with PwC estimating Generation Z and Millennials will make up around 60% of the global workforce by 2030.2

And we can expect the emergence of Generation Alpha in the workforce in 2030, leading to the possibility of five generations in the workplace at one time.

Are generational differences not just down to age?

Difficulties in assessing generational differences are well-known.3 Some observed differences are due to differences between age-groups, rather than generations. For example, some studies suggest that Generation X, who are in middle adulthood, value work-life balance more than other generations do.4 This could simply be a result of differences in life stage, as Millennials might express similar sentiments when they reach middle adulthood. It is therefore important to distinguish between age-related and history-related influences; the latter being the defining influence across generations.5

Age-related influences are tied to chronological age and largely predictable, although there will be some variation across cultures. For example:

Understanding age-related influences is important in the workplace. For example, a young adult may be embarking on a journey into parenthood and in doing so, may need their employer to be more flexible and forgiving when work does not take priority.

Taking the time to understand and appreciate these life events is key to ensuring employees are able and willing to contribute to the best of their ability.

History-related influences explain how the time period in which we live, and the unique historical circumstances of that time affect our development. Economic shifts, social movements and wars are just some examples of historical influences. They are by nature less predictable and show significant variations across cultures.

Historical influences can be local to a neighbourhood, country, or continent; or global (either in nature or consequence). It is important to consider that global events can bring very different localized impacts due to co-existing cultural influences, as we have seen with the COVID-19 pandemic where economic, health and societal impacts have varied significantly across the globe. Regardless of localized differences, historical influences can shape entire generations by shaping the world in which individuals mature. 

In considering how history-related influences might shape your or other generations, we have brought together some key themes and events over the past 80 years. We hope they evoke curiosity: which historical events had the most impact on you? How might recent events be impacting younger generations and their approach to work?

Click image to enlarge and view details.

What do we know about each generation?

Generational research is difficult. Having surveyed the literature on generational differences, we have hand-picked some insights from reputable studies. These are not comprehensive but give a flavor of the observed differential characteristics of each generation. We have also included quotes from a short series of internal interviews conducted here at Arcadia in March 2023.

Baby Boomers

More than other generations, baby boomers are more likely to stay at jobs they do not enjoy due to their traditional attitudes.6 Baby boomers respect authority and tend to favor hierarchal leadership.7

Generation X

Generation X were the first generation to grow up in homes with two working parents – consequently they are often characterized as independent and self-sufficient.8 Generation X are thought to be the first generation to place work-life balance as the highest priority9 and they will typically work for several employers over the course of their career.


Millennials are recognized for their social consciousness and open-mindedness. These characteristics are likely due to the exposure to widely available travel and social media, enabling encounters from an early age with diverse cultures and lifestyles.10 The result is that millennials value the world beyond their own spheres and prioritise diversity and inclusivity. Millennials look for these values in a workplace.11

Generation Z

Generation Z are adapted to life in a digital age and a world that operates at speed, scale and scope. They are pragmatic due to being accustomed to utilizing ever improving tools and technology. Generation Z, like Millennials, are especially drawn to companies that make positive social impact.12 Gen Z value flexibility, relevance, authenticity and non-hierarchical leadership.13

Spotlight on Generation Z

A large-scale study by Stanford conducted between 2017-2021 found the following attributes of Generation Z.13 Findings were based on interviews, focus groups and surveys of >2k adults aged between 18-25yrs (Generation Z) as well as the ‘iGen corpus’, a 70million item strong repository of spoken and written language of people aged 16-25yrs.

Generation Z…

  • Value flexibility, relevance, authenticity and non-hierarchical leadership.
  • Do not necessarily want to communicate via digital means (a common assumption) – nearly every Generation Z interviewed said their favorite form of communication was ‘in person’.
  • Often question rules and authority due to being so used to finding what they need on their own (e.g., through the internet). They can also become frustrated by what appears to them to be outdated and often irrelevant ways of doing things.
  • Have a greater appreciation for diversity and the importance of finding their own unique identities as a result of growing up in a world where it is easy to learn about/meet/experience different people and cultures from across the world.

Why is this important?

  1. Recruitment: Generation Z are either in education, entering the workforce or in the early stages of their career. As the generation of ‘sensibility’, wanting to solve humanity’s greatest issues, ‘unity’, seeking a better more equitable world, and of ‘truth’, craving authenticity in an era of fake news and information overload14; Generation Z have new requirements of the workplace. Understanding these and adapting recruitment strategies accordingly is key to successful talent acquisition.
  2. Retention: Understanding how to lead across generations is key to successfully motivating and retaining talent; and has been evidenced to promote cooperation and unity in the workplace.15 A failure to engage employees across all generations leads to inadequate working environments and can cause breakdowns in workplace relationships, leading to quiet or actual quitting.
  3. Training: As Generation Z become a greater proportion of the workforce, there are important implications for training in the workplace. Generation Z and Millennials, as generations of ‘choice’ growing up in a world of abundance, need to be persuaded of the value of training; they need the ‘why’ before they engage. Younger generations require instant gratification – training techniques need to capitalize on technological advances and they need to be fast and rewarding. Training strategies need to account for younger generations switching jobs more frequently, to ensure that training offers remain valuable to both the employee and employer. 
  4. Shift-change in leadership: As Baby Boomers gradually leave the workforce, leadership positions open for Generation X and Millennials to progress into. We expect over the coming decade a resulting shift-change in leadership, with implications for how employers handle the transition. Research shows that Generation Z value non-hierarchical leadership, at odds to what Baby Boomers value and Generation X have been accustomed to. This shift-change may offer opportunity for new leaders to change the structure of organisations accordingly.
  1. Opportunities: With increasing advances in technology, it is arguably vital for success to have an intergenerational workplace to harness opportunities created by artificial intelligence, data science and automation. Generation Z are considered ‘digitally fluent’16 and consequently, they are the most likely to be able to help navigate opportunities presented by exciting technological advances. Companies need Generation Z.

Can / should we generalise?

Understanding diversity in the workplace is paramount, whether diversity by generation, gender, culture, age or career stage.

“Appreciation of generational differences is simply another form of diversity in the workplace, and as such, should be prioritized to create the space for understanding those who have different experiences and perspectives.” – Generation X, Female, US

As described, there are historical influences which distinctly shape a generation, resulting in common tendencies distinct to that generation. These tendencies need to be understood and appreciated to enable successful talent recruitment, retention and training.

However, as with other diversity domains, generations are not necessarily homogeneous.17 There are age-related influences common across generations; and there are cultural factors which lead two individuals within the same generation to have different values and working preferences. There are also individual differences which lead to different motivations and attitudes in the workplace. It is important not to over-generalise: stereotypical beliefs can be problematic, they can get in the way of how people collaborate with their colleagues, and have troubling implications for how we people are managed and trained.18 The important thing is for employers to consider reasons for why an individual thinks, feels and behaves the way they do.


  1. Companies need to understand their workforce and the sub-groups within – these subgroups might not necessarily be by age or generation; the important thing is that the workplace is a safe and productive place for all.
  2. The workplace is becoming increasingly generationally diverse, with expectations of up to five generations in the workforce in 2030 and with Generation Z and Alpha demonstrating significant differences to older generations which need to be understood.
  3. It is important not to overgeneralise: stereotypes can interfere with workplace behaviour. Across generations, cultures and age groups, individual differences must always be considered.

We’d love to hear your perspectives on and experiences of leading and managing an intergenerational workplace. We have a range of training as well as seminar-style offerings on understanding generations which we’d love to discuss with you and, where relevant, tailor these to your company’s needs. Get in touch here: hello@arcadiaconsulting.com.

This article was written by a female Millennial and a male Baby Boomer, both members of Arcadia’s Research team.


1 In China, generations are considered by decade – for example, the ‘post 50s’ generation were born between 1950 and 1959.

2 PwC – How prepared are employers for Generation Z? August 2021 – (link).

3 Pew Research Center – The Whys and Hows of Generations Research. September 2015 –  (link).

4 Whitney Gibson, J., Greenwood, R. A., & Murphy, Jr., E. F. (2009). Generational Differences In The Workplace: Personal Values, Behaviors, And Popular Beliefs. Journal of Diversity Management (JDM), 4(3), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.19030/jdm.v4i3.4959

5 Kuther, T. L. (2022). Lifespan Development (3rd ed.). SAGE Publications US.

6 Abate, J., Schaefer, T., & Pavone, T. (2018). Understanding generational identity, job burnout, job satisfaction, job tenure and turnover intention. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict22(1), 1-12.

7 Gursoy, D., Maier, T. A., & Chi, C. G. (2008). Generational differences: An examination of work values and generational gaps in the hospitality workforce. International journal of hospitality management27(3), 448-458.

8 Jiang, S (2019, April 2). The ABCs Of Generations X, Y and Z. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2019/04/02/the-abcs-of-generations-x-y-and-z/?sh=4150bdfe672b

9 Gibson, J. W., Greenwood, R. A., & Murphy Jr, E. F. (2009). Generational differences in the workplace: Personal values, behaviors, and popular beliefs. Journal of Diversity Management (JDM)4(3), 1-8.

10 Pew Research Center (2010, February 24). Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2010/02/24/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change/

11 Smith, C and Turner, S (2015). The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion The Millennial Influence. Deloitte University. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/about-deloitte/us-inclus-millennial-influence-120215.pdf

12 Deloitte (2022). Striving for balance, advocating for change – The Deloitte global 2022 Gen Z & Millennial survey. https://www.deloitte.com/global/en/issues/work/genzmillennialsurvey.html

13 Katz, R (2022) Gen Z, Explained: The Art of Living in a Digital Age (University of Chicago Press, 2021) – referenced here: https://news.stanford.edu/2022/01/03/know-gen-z/

14 Edelman – The Power of Gen Z – Trust & The Future Consumer, December 2021 (link).

15 Becton, J. B., Walker, H. J., & Jones‐Farmer, A. (2014). Generational differences in workplace behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology44(3), 175-189.

16 Leslie, B., Anderson, C., Bickham, C., Horman, J., Overly, A., Gentry, C., … & King, J. (2021). Generation Z perceptions of a positive workplace environment. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal33, 171-187.

17 Rudolph, C. W., & Zacher, H. (2017). Considering generations from a lifespan developmental perspective. Work, Aging and Retirement3(2), 113-129.

18 Harvard Business Review – Just How Different Are Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers at Work? August 2019 – (link).

If you would like further information on this topic please get in touch with us at hello@arcadiaconsulting.com.

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Sales Success – The 3 Daily Habits that Make a Difference

Sales Success – The 3 Daily Habits that Make a Difference

Len Patane

Len Patane

Principal Consultant

When markets take a hit, it can be challenging for sales teams to make their numbers. Yet many do; how is that possible? They understand that success takes dedication and hard work. It’s not just about having the right product or the brightest idea, but also about developing daily habits that set them up for long-term success in any market condition. So which key habits are essential for sellers of all levels and disciplines during economic instability and volatility?

The difference between average salespeople and exceptional salespeople can often be boiled down to their daily habits. Exceptional salespeople tend to be more organised and methodical in their approach, setting aside time each day to make sure they are reaching goals and maximising their potential. They use this time to identify key areas of improvement, develop an actionable plan to take advantage of opportunities, and refine their communication skills. Not only do they have a keen eye for details and trends, but exceptional salespeople also have the discipline and focus to stay on task until all objectives have been met. Furthermore, they understand the power of networking and foster relationships with both clients and colleagues that are beneficial for mutual growth.

Average salespeople don’t necessarily lack ambition or motivation. They may be less organised in their approach, not taking the time to continually work on personal growth or strategic planning. They may also lack confidence in reaching out to peers or customers, which reduces opportunities for success.

Based on our experience working with thousands of sales professionals in multiple industries and geographies around the globe, we have identified 3 core daily habits that we believe drive sales success:

  • Building relationships with prospects, clients, and industry specialists.
  • Prioritising continuous self-improvement through research and study.
  • Maintaining an attitude of self-motivation.

Daily Habit One:

The “5 A Day” habit: Build relationships and sales fitness.

Connecting with stakeholders via LinkedIn is a great way to build relationships and open up new sales opportunities. As such, it is important to have a strategy for how you want to approach the connections you make. A mentor once introduced me to the “5 A Day” habit to build sales health. Just like consuming 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day is great for your physical health; identify and focus on cultivating five new business relationships each day.  That’s 25 new connections each week, 100 a month or 1,200 a year. If you were able to convert just 5% of these new connections to paying customers, that’s 60 new clients a year! 

When targeting these five relationships each day, make sure you do more than just send a connection request — personalise each message so that it speaks specifically to their interests and needs. Additionally, when connecting don’t just promote yourself., Instead provide them with value by engaging with their content, offer genuine compliments, and share valuable articles and thought leadership assets.  

Once you’ve nurtured a connection and want to open up the account, a great way to understand the dynamics of relationships within this connection’s organisation is by creating a Power Map. Building a Power Map  can be easily achieved with a simple three-step process that creates a visual representation of the decision-making landscape:  

a) Plot each stakeholder’s INFLUENCE in the decision-making process against their ATTITUDE to you and your organisation onto a four-quadrant model. Each quadrant categorises the stakeholder and describes how best leverage them to increase your chances of success.

Protestors – (Low Influence/Low Attitude) do not have much sway, yet can take up significant amounts of our time asking for additional information. Recommendation: Don’t ignore them, but be judicious with responses to their queries as they can be time thieves.

Enemies – (High Influence/Low Attitude) should raise red flags as they are not supporters yet have the power to award the business. Recommendation: Try to understand why they don’t want to support you, maybe they’re very happy with their existing supplier; were they burned by a bad past experience with your organisation? As a minimum, try to neutralise their attitude towards you with the help of a Friend or Ally whose opinion they value.

Friends – (Low Influence/High Attitude) can’t say yes to our proposal but they can open doors for us and provide valuable organisational and competitive intelligence. Recommendation: Make a point of getting to know the personal assistants of all the relevant senior executives in your accounts.

Allies – (High Influence/High Attitude) are your internal champions and most vocal mouthpieces for the promotion of you, your solution and organisation to the powers that be. Recommendation: Word up your Allies with everything they need to do an internal sale on your behalf.

Unknown Zone – If you’ve recently acquired a new account or proactively expanding into new business units within an existing account, there will more than likely be a number of stakeholders that you haven’t met yet. That’s totally fine, plot them onto the UNKNOWN zone and use the later stages of this exercise to plan how to best reach out and build a relationship.

Neutral Zone – Alternatively, you may have some fence sitters who don’t have a strong opinion about you or your company, they can be plotted in the NEUTRAL zone. This is a fantastic opportunity to get to know these stakeholders and their worlds, and then provide them with value and insight to move them into Friend or Ally territory.

b) After plotting each stakeholder, annotate each stakeholder with their role in the decision-making process. Role types are either:

  • Decision Maker – decisions don’t get made without their sign off
  • Key Influencer – This is someone who can change the mind of the decision maker/s
  • Influencer – their opinion is sought but would rarely change a decision
  • Supporter – Someone who likes you and is prepared to help with information and guide you. 

c) Then draw lines to visualise existing relationships by connecting stakeholders that know each other and value each other’s opinions. Now you know who to ask for introductions and who can put in a good word for you.

By mapping out these relationships, you will better understand each connection’s influence on your desired party and how best your efforts can be leveraged. This could be through leveraging Friends and Allies for introductions or providing influencers with content or services that will appeal to your target stakeholder. Additionally, if done correctly, it can give insight into potential weaknesses in relationships that need to be strengthened or new contacts that may need to be cultivated in order for certain objectives to be met.  

Remember that connections don’t always have to be professional in nature; look for common ground like your children’s schools, church groups, sporting and volunteering associations that you both may be a part of, as these are a great way to make a connection and quickly build rapport and start forging a relationship. 

Overall, building relationships with prospects, clients and specialists isn’t easy—but a Power Map can make it much simpler by helping you visualise complex connections between individuals in an organised manner. That way, you know exactly how best to use those relations for maximum impact. 

Daily Habit Two:

The Learning Hour Habit: Make time for self-improvement to build sales success.

Continuous self-improvement is essential for success in the modern business world. To stay ahead of the competition and build opportunities, salespeople must dedicate themselves to a regimen of research and learning. Block out an hour in your diary each day to read industry articles, complete online courses, or research. This simple habit will provide invaluable insights into industry and market trends, developments, and challenges which you can use with clients and prospects throughout the sales process. Not only does this practice allow sales professionals to keep up with market and industry advances, it also gives them the necessary knowledge they need to effectively understand the needs of their customers and provide innovative solutions that drive valuable outcomes. 

Self-improvement activities can help sales professionals gain valuable insights into customer behaviour and learn how they can create personalised experiences that align with the client’s unique needs. Through consistent research and learning, sales professionals can further refine their account strategies by learning about new resources available as well as any market changes that could influence their performance in a positive way.   

In today’s increasingly complex environment, continuous self-improvement has become an absolute necessity for those looking to succeed in sales. By taking an hour out of each day to conduct some kind of research or learning related activity, salespeople are not only able to improve their skills but build confidence in what they do and set themselves apart from the competition. With a commitment towards lifelong learning and development, sales professionals are able to better understand customer needs and create meaningful relationships that lead to long-term success in their field. 

Daily Habit Three:

The power of cultivating resourceful mindsets in sales.

When we say resourceful mindsets, we’re talking about how well we can endure and triumph over pressure. This is often what separates exceptional sales performers from the rest; it’s actually the difference that makes the difference! Exceptional sales performers have strong self-belief, determination, coping, focus – and above all else, demonstrate positivity and mental strength. In essence, exceptional performers consistently see the positive in every situation despite how bleak it might initially look.

What drives a mindset of resourcefulness? What makes you feel customer-obsessed, competitive and results-driven? Is it the things that happen around you, or does it come from somewhere else? 

There will always be things that could impact your behaviour and therefore your results. There will always be problems, failure, and rejection. If the events around you determine your level of motivation, we call that the ‘outside-in’ approach to motivation. The key to staying motivated is to proactively decide – irrespective of what happens on the outside – that you will choose to feel good and resourceful on the inside. This is the ‘inside-out’ approach to motivation.  

So how do you develop ‘inside out’ motivation? When it comes to challenging external events like not being shortlisted for an RFP or losing business to a competitor; we cannot control the event itself, we can however control our response to this event. What’s within our gift is how professional, calm, and resourceful we stay when we deal with the situation.  

Rather than reacting emotionally, you can stay resourceful in difficult situations by using this simple process developed by Jack Cranfield (Author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul”) called E+R=O

Imagine your client has requested an urgent meeting because there is a serious complaint she needs to share with you. When describing the situation, she becomes visibly agitated, she raises her voice and then starts aggressively pointing at you and proceeds to blame you for the situation. When confronted with such an external EVENT (E) it’s easy – in the heat of the moment – to take this personally, get defensive, lose control and then REACT (R) in a highly emotional way. In a worst-case scenario, this could result in you raising your voice at the client, bashing your fist on the table or even storming out of the room. After such an outburst you’re left with a highly undesirable OUTCOME (O) where the problem remains unresolved and you’ve damaged the client relationship. 

In the future, when confronted with a similar situation, why not try this approach? Before you do anything rash, remember you have zero control over the EVENT (E), so stop, take a big deep breath in and then: a) Start with the end in mind or the OUTCOME (O). Ask yourself, what is it that you want to achieve in this situation? Ideally understand more about the client’s complaint, try to fix it and ultimately, preserve the relationship b)Then go backwards to the RESPONSE (R). Think about what the most resourceful response would be to ensure you achieve your desired Outcome? Why not demonstrate some empathy by firstly acknowledging and apologising for the situation, and then requesting if you could ask some questions to help you better understand the issue so you can attempt to resolve it. This approach enables the client to vent her frustrations whilst diffusing any emotion as she sees you attentively listening and genuinely wanting to solve the issue resulting in a more collaborative and constructive conversation. Following this E+R=O process to totally own your R (which you have 100% control over) will help you to diffuse emotionally charged situations and collaboratively reach a solution by cultivating a more resourceful and positive mindset.

Finally, it’s useful to highlight the cyclic nature of the E+R=O formula as each OUTCOME (O) becomes the next EVENT (E). For example, if this meeting was an absolute disaster where both parties lost their cool, then the next time you connect with the client will probably be quite tense and uncomfortable. Alternatively, if the meeting ended positively with an acknowledgement of the complaint and an agreed way forward to solve it, such an outcome can have the effect of building an even stronger relationship, smoothing the way for more open, collaborative and trust based future meetings. 

In conclusion, it is evident that sales success requires more than just good intentions; those who truly want to thrive must be willing to put in extra effort each day by consistently practicing habits including nurturing their “5 A Day” relationships, allocating 1 hour each day to invest in self-improvement activities and learn something new as well as bouncing back from adversity by staying resourceful and self-motivated. 

So, in the words of James Clear (author of Atomic Habits), why not try introducing some, or all of these habits into your daily routine to help drive quality inputs and see what impact they could make on accelerating your outcomes and overall sales success! 

”The edge is in the inputs.

The person who consumes from better sources, gets better thoughts.

The person who asks better questions, gets better answers.

The person who builds better habits, gets better results.

It’s not the outcomes. It’s the inputs.”

James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits

If you would like further information on this topic please get in touch with Len at Len.patane@arcadiaconsulting.com.

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