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Decoding Demographic Shifts and Understanding Generational Insights

This blog is a summary of the keynote presentation by Kim Lear, generational expert and founder of Inlay Insights.


Our formative years (our teenage years), the years when our brains are developing are the most impactful in defining us. We need to understand the cultural shifts that take place and the shared story we have.

Baby Boomers

There were 80 million baby boomers, the biggest group in history. The American infrastructure was not prepared for this population boom (not enough jobs), so if you weren’t willing to stay late, someone else would take your job. Ten thousand Baby Boomers turn 65 every day. It can be a time of emotional upheaval: “If I’m not my job, who am I?” This can be hard for men because  a lot of their friends are at work. There’s pressure on men to leave lasting legacies; it’s the narrative we have for them.

Baby Boomer women are spending time and money on travel and education. There’s not a lot of expectations about the role of older women; they have been largely invisible. They’re holding onto the freedom to reinvent. It’s impacting the institution of marriage the most. Since 1990, the divorce rate has doubled in those aged 50+ and more are initiated by women.

America is an ageist (and aging) country. We assume people who are older don’t want to change. Yet boomers were the number one purchasers of the Apple iWatch. We have the assumption that older people do not want to change.

Generation X

 There are 60 million Gen Xers in the United States. They are skeptical, independent and entrepreneurial. They focus on work-life balance, and they want to be there for their kids. This was the start of 24-hour media and the 24-hour news cycle. Advertisers were constantly selling. There was no binge watching. Gen Xers are an unforgiving group who value loyalty. There’s a streak of fierce independent. Their attitude is: tell me what you want it, where you want it, how you want it and when you want it. They like to go away and get something done.

They are skeptics, which has created a unique style of communicating (honest, direct and unfiltered). This skepticism has changed who is seen as the expert.


With more than 80 million, millennials are the largest generation. The Internet went social in millennials’ formative years. It changed how we interact, buy, date, etc. Initially technology had a smaller impact, but now it has a wider impact. There’s an ability to buy, leave a review and impact the purchasing of others. The impact now is much wider (i.e., viral).

Violence has also had an impact on this generation (due to traumatic events like Columbine, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma City, 9/11). Parents felt they needed to hold their kids closer and have a better relationship with them. There are more collaborative family structures (close parent-child relationship) and education styles (to build collaborative and relationship-building skills). Millennials are collaborative, empowered, networked, risk averse and in search of meaning.


  1.  Everyone has to bend a little and see things through the lens of others. Talk to your team about your style of communication. It can help your staff understand how to take and adapt to your feedback.
  2. It’s easy to act like “You’re the expert,” but that can be the quickest way to lose a skeptical person.
  3. When bringing in new talent, be clear with candidates about what the job entails and also what life they can have. Have early conversations about what a reasonable career trajectory looks like.
  4. The desire to make an impact transcends generations.
  5. Some younger managers may falter by trying to assert their authority (by focusing on newer education, tech savvy, etc.).
  6. Avoid the “generational hazing” mindset, the “ You don’t get to have what I have unless you go through it exactly as I did.”


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