Generation X, Y, Z and the workplace

The basic idea behind generational theory is that our values are shaped in earnest at sometime between 15-23 years of age, based on historic events, music, new technology, conditions in educational systems and in the job market as well as other societal conditions. The theory is therefore a sort of socialization theory.

Marianne Levinsen, M.Sc. Poltical Science, Futurist
Each generation keeps the values that were formed in their youth, throughout their lives. Many experience that they better understand others, who are the same generation as themselves.

For the past 12 years, we at Fremforsk have interviewed Danes ages 14 to 91 about life, their homes, spending, health and the future.
Generation X born from 1967 till 1977
This generation is considered the first individualists in Danish society. That’s due to parents (especially women) for the first time, due to the birth control pill (1966) and free abortion in 1973 could choose themselves whether they wanted children or not. Especially the youngest part of the generation experienced, that their parent’s only wanted a child to worship rather than making a family and many siblings as was popular in other periods.

Socialization at home happened with modern parents focused on free play and development and less on strictly raising them. For many, home was the new single-family home with their own bedrooms. That’s partly why the generation is more self-centered and expect in many different ways that they are viewed as special. Not least, if they have children themselves, then those are extra special and others should adapt to them and not the other way around.

Technologically they grew up with the VCR and could record news shows or movies and even though it seems old-timey today, it was a breakthrough along with TV2 that broke DR’s monopoly in the 1990s. They are digital immigrants, but are very active users of the digital universes for shopping, fun, social networks and games.

At their workplace it’s a priority that their work is meaningful and that work is a duty to society. They are preoccupied with flexible work hours and preferably a high wage. Their title isn’t very important, because it’s the results that count and not the title, which is why many are willing to give a lot at their workplace.

It’s important to be recognized for your work and that work supplies development and challenges now and in the future, and that it’s partly up to the individual to reach the goals they set themselves.

Generation X which spans the ages of 37 to 48 are today the ones we find in ministerial positions and leadership roles both in the private and the public offices.
Generation Y born from 1978 till 1989
They belong to the smallest generation, because women now to a high degree entered the labor market in the 70s. That means most have grown up with relatively good financial backgrounds. Many remember when PCs and mobile phones came and have been active users in the development of games and social media. Today they’re fairly able users of digital media.

They are the first digital natives who have the idea that the way into the world is digital, and many are able to do homework, TV, texts and a lot of other things at the same time. They are the first generation where sharing adventures, pictures, experiences and friends is starting to speed up via the internet, as a normal part of being young.

This breakthrough means that Danes under 30 today and Danes under 40 in 2025 only see things as existing if they’re on a digital platform. “If it ain’t digital, It doesn’t exist”. If you can’t find information, times and explanations easily in a digital fashion, then it doesn’t exist and it isn’t a service.

It’s the first real institutional generation where most children have been socialized in institutions, and as a result are very socially competent and used to dealing with numerous social contexts. At the same time they’ve been raised with the modern approach where there’s a focus on the individual child and its needs.

They are the “Sex in the City-generation” and have from a young age had quite large budgets for shopping and the things they wanted. They were told that the world was waiting for them and their talents.

They are the first generation that thinks that you make your own fortunes, i.e. that by making the right choices, you can decide if your life and career will be a success. If it doesn’t happen, it’s your own fault.

They also want a meaningful job with the opportunity of realizing themselves and creating new identities in their work life. Even after finishing their education and finding a job, they’re still not certain if that’s what they want to be. Maybe something better will come along.

A fair and just paycheck, please. Worker agreements and the many rules of the labor market aren’t well known to them. “Give me a title, for example Manager, that I can be proud of when I’m at the bar with my friends.”

Praise me and see me every day, otherwise I’ll feel insecure and invisible at work.

Today they’re between 25 and 36 and some hold good positions depending on their education and professions, but many also found that despite promises of the opposite, they’ve had a hard time finding jobs since 2008.

Generation Z born 1990 till 2001
This generation was born in a time where family life with many children was in focus, and at the same time, it’s the generation where children were given a voice from a very young age in the family democracy and influence on shopping, travels and other purchases.

In society, this generation is marked by the new public school law and individual teaching plans in the daycares and schools, where the aim is a positive and appreciative approach to every little individual and the talents that are present and that should be worked with.

Friends and social life is incredibly important for this generation who are the first real digital natives. “What was it like, living back then?” = before the digital age, is a common question for parents. Digital media’s access to communication and instantaneous reporting on events from all over the world makes them feel like global citizens.

Many feel that they live in a province of the world called Denmark, and they don’t walk around with a great dedication to the nation state.

Socialization of the generation’s values are happening these years, and there’s no question that this generation will be more social and engaged in society, while being less preoccupied with consumerism than generation Y is.

At the same time, the crisis means that some quick, young people are very busy improving their own competencies in schools and at educational institutions. “We don’t want those who dillydally” is a new motto at the youth educations, where in the 00s it used to be “We need to make room for everyone”.

They are between 14 and 24 years old and the oldest are starting to enter the workplace. We can expect to meet super competent, digital natives with an understanding of network and business in the multi-global world seen from the perspective of the northern province of Denmark.


HRchefen Nr. 1 2015, published here 2018

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