David Mitchell, AARP Arizona State director, speaks about generational nuances in today’s work force, which spans four generations, at the Rio Salado Communiversity Tuesday.

For the first time in modern history, AARP officials say, workplace demographics now span four generations, creating a challenge for managers attempting to relate to all the differing age groups represented in their businesses.

People are living longer, healthier lives and are not necessarily intent on retirement, according to AARP.

Each generation – World War II, Baby Boomers, and Generation X and Y’s – now comprise the modern workplace, meaning new hires fresh out of college could find themselves working side-by-side with colleagues who are 40 years their senior or older.

It’s not merely age that differentiates these workers, said AARP officials, but rather how they approach accomplishing different assignments and tasks, as well as how much “work” defines their everyday lives.

“Today, there are two generations gaining employment: 16- to 24-year-olds and people over 55,” said David Mitchell, AARP executive director. “Employment is being lost amongst those ages 25 to 54, which is an interesting phenomenon.”

Mitchell, along with several other experts, spoke Tuesday afternoon at the Communiversity in Surprise during a presentation called “Multi-generations in the Workforce” to a group of professionals about how workplace demographics are changing.

While 55 percent of all Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce members come from Surprise, a growing number of workers, entrepreneurs and self-made business owners in the Sun Cities continue to pop up, said David Moss, the chamber’s president and CEO.

Moss said Sun City, Sun City West and Sun City Grand residents represent 16 percent of the chamber’s membership.

According to AARP, the median U.S. worker in 2006 was 40 years old. Paradoxically, only one-third of all employers have the requisite training for workers 50 and older.

The so-called World War II generation, those born in 1945 or earlier, is sometimes termed “traditionalists” or “Depression babies” who appreciate a logical approach to work, with clear job expectations that are fair and consistent.

This group prefers face-to-face communication rather than phone or email and is experienced and dedicated to their craft, AARP officials said. They also are reluctant to buck the system, uncomfortable with conflict and reticent when they disagree with their boss or fellow co-workers.

“This generation knows how to go through hard times and knows how to deal with issues,” Mitchell said. “They’re not whiners.”

Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, represent the largest segment of the American work force. There are roughly 77 million Boomers who are service-oriented, appreciate a team perspective, and are motivated workers, AARP officials said.

Unlike the generation that preceded them, Boomers, who appreciate personal communication and the telephone, are not necessarily “budget-minded” and are uncomfortable with conflict. In addition, some may put “success ahead of result.”

This group wants a challenging work environment, but those who have children or grandchildren want to work flexible hours in order to enjoy the fruits of their labor, AARP found. They also insist on phased retirement and health and wellness programs to foster a healthy lifestyle.

Generation Xers, those born between 1965 and 1980, are independent and creative souls who are adaptable, technology-literate and like to buck the system. They don’t need a boss constantly looking over their shoulder as they enjoy being turned loose to meet deadlines, according to AARP.

“This is a generation that is skeptical and distrustful of authority,” Mitchell said. “They don’t like micromanagers and flashy bureaucrats.”

Unlike their older office peers, this group enjoys communicating by voicemail and email and is looking for development opportunities and to add certifications to their resumes for upward mobility.

The Millennial Generation, those born in 1980 to present day, brings to the workplace optimism, a can-do spirit and the ability to multitask, AARP found, but they are often inexperienced and require supervision and structure.

This group, which prefers instant messaging, blogs, text messages and email, has difficulty communicating in the workplace and likes to be spoken with one-on-one. Oftentimes, they are paired up with an older mentor for workplace support, AARP officials said.

Zach Colick can be reached at 623-876-2522 or

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