Much has been said about generational differences, and the starkest contrasts have been drawn between baby boomers and millennials, who represent the two ends of the workforce age spectrum. But how can we know whether these differences are true differences that will carry into the future, or whether they’re simply due to their age? After all, baby boomers—now stereotyped as individualistic and work-centric—were once known as the “hippie” generation that traveled en masse to Woodstock to commune with hundreds of thousands of like-minded people.


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Researchers have tried to answer this question by surveying people of all generations at a certain age (usually around college age). Trends in these answers are referred to as the “cohort effect” and represent true differences in generational values by controlling for the “age effect.” In other words, by researching people of different generations at the same age—20, say—researchers can determine which attributes and characteristics are unique to a particular generation and which are more of a result of the 20-year-olds’ stage of life. 

The research shows that some stereotypes are confirmed, while others are debunked. For example, millennials value leisure time and work/life balance far more than their boomer counterparts, even at the same age. On the other hand, the research also shows that millennials aren’t looking for more meaning in the work that they do as compared to boomers at the same age (as has been suggested). 

In 2016, ZS conducted research on more than 500 salespeople from all generations to see how different incentives appealed (or didn’t) to each generation. While we don’t have responses over time to determine whether differences were age- or cohort-related, the differences are critical for designing your sales incentive program. Learn more: 



Topics: sales, sales incentive plan, sales incentives, Chad Albrecht, sales comp, millennials, generations, baby boomers, multigenerational sales force