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Goals to Greatness: Setting Benchmarked Targets and Accountability Across the Generations

Goals to Greatness: Setting Benchmarked Targets and Accountability Across the Generations

Every employee needs to have individual goals in alignment with overall business objectives. What those goals are should be the same for a particular level or position regardless of generation. Likewise, the goals should always be with the best interests of the business in mind. What the different check-in points are could be improved with a little bit of generational thinking behind them.

Traditionalists – value long-term thinking. Setting annual goals is nothing foreign to them because they recognize that it will take time to accomplish what is set out in front of them. Traditionalists tend to look at achieving the overall goal as the target. While they value ongoing successes and being acknowledged for them, they are not foreign to the idea of an annual bonus as the target to reach. In other words, the goals to be met can be larger and require a longer plan of action. At the point of completion Traditionalists will expect a full review and acknowledgement.

Boomers – are similar to Traditionalists in their thinking. They are very strategic in their mindsets, so give them room to figure out different tactics to achieve their goals. The strategy becomes somewhat of a game, something that makes work fun and enjoyable. Give them the opportunity to thoughtfully change their plan of attack along the way, while keeping their eye on the prize. It can be a year out, and similar to Traditionalists, that will be the time for a review.

Generation X – might not say so, but often appreciate shorter-term goals to serve as targets before reaching the longer term ones. Their experience has often been that of disruption because of economic downturns, and now they don’t always trust that everything will be the same a year from now. A year often feels too far away for Generation X:ers. Set longer-term goals, but break them down with shorter, quarterly targets with individual rewards attached so that Generation X:ers can feel that they are making progress and that they will be able to share in the benefits. Then leave them alone to do the work.

Millennials or Generation Y – belong to a cohort that is used to frequent updates and feedback. As a generation, Millennials are used to immediate access to data and information. They are used to getting support to achieve their goals and to know that they are on the right path. In contrast to Generation X, Millennials don’t want to be left alone to do their work for longer periods of time. They will usually prefer more frequent check-ins and shorter-term goals that they are rewarded for meeting. The rewards can be small, but as always, a little will go a very long way.

Everyone has to work together to reach your company’s goals, and there are no exceptions to that rule. How the goals are broken down into smaller, more frequent opportunities for success is different for the generations. Understanding how each generation responds will help you to manage and communicate goal setting more effectively. The outcome will be a happier, more productive workforce to the benefit of your customers.

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About Dr. Annika Hylmö

Dr. Annika Hylmö is an Organizational Strategy Consultant and Executive and Leadership Coach with The Insight Generation. Annika has a Ph.D. in Organizational Communication and a M.A. in International Communication. She can be contacted at

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One Comment

  1. Nancy DouglassMarch 5, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    As a boomer – this was an interesting article and helped explain some of the professional differences I have observed in the younger staff members within our organization.

About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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