According to a 2015 CIPD survey as many as half of organisations are concerned about the skills gap that will open up when older workers (aged 50+) leave the workforce. This figure climbs to two-thirds of those organisations in manufacturing and production as well as the public sector. In a conscious effort to address this concern, just over half are taking steps to transfer the knowledge and expertise of their older workers to other parts of the workforce. All this leads to the burning questions – what competencies do different generations bring to the workforce and where should organisations be focusing their efforts when it comes to transferring skills?

Our research at PCL using data from Profile:Match2 examines differences in the skills and behaviours across three generations: Baby boomers (born 1943-1960); Generation X (1961-1981); and Millennials (1982-2001). Here’s a snapshot of what we found:

PM Generation Data

Baby boomers                             

The Baby Boomer generation, on average, scored higher than both Generation X and Millennials on Decision Making, Strategic Awareness, Delegating, Results Orientation and Creativity. This competency profile suggests that Baby Boomers will make informed decisions with confidence, have an awareness of the bigger picture, possess the ability to come up with innovative ideas, and have the necessary vision and drive to achieve results. With a number of years’ experience under their belts they are likely to act independently and be comfortable with the decisions they make (Wong et al, 2008).

“Baby boomers have the necessary vision and drive to achieve results” ®

Generation X

Our research revealed that Generation X had higher competency ratings for Motivation, Project Management and People Management compared to Baby Boomers and Millennials. These individuals appear more likely than other generations to be competent at managing people and large-scale projects. At this stage in their career, they are likely to have progressed to relatively senior positions, occupying roles that require managing employees and distributing job tasks effectively. These results are in line with previous findings that Generation X tend to be independent and self-sufficient, preferring to have authoritative roles (Hart, 2006). Additionally, Generation X seem more ambitious and career-centred than other generations and know how to influence others to reach their goals.


As the first generation of digital natives, growing up in constant connection with others through the internet and smartphones, Millennials appear more competent than previous generations when it comes to ‘people skills’. Our research shows that they score higher across Communication Skills, Customer Focus, Interpersonal Skills and Team Orientation. They also scored higher on average when it comes to Self Confidence, Attention to Detail, Information Management and Planning & Organising.

These findings, in part, echo our previous research findings (Trickey & Hyde, 2009) that Generation Y are likely to be eager to please and concerned about delivering the wishes of others. Additional research has found that they are also likely to be more affiliative and confident in their interactions with others (Wong et al, 2008). At the beginning of their careers, they are likely to value input and help from others, hence having higher scores for Team Orientation than older generations. Their high scores for competencies associated with conscientiousness and self-esteem suggests they should be optimistic and self-confident, coupled with an organised and systematic in their approach.

“Generation Y are likely to be eager to please and concerned about delivering the wishes of others.”

Our research suggests that each generation brings a crucial set of competencies to the workforce. Whilst older employees can help younger employees to develop skills such as strategic awareness, Millennials may also be able to teach baby boomers and Generation X about information management and team orientation. The challenge for organisations is to understand where their skills gaps lie and ensure they have the people with the right competencies to meet their business needs.

For more information about our research or Profile:Match2, please contact