Coaching across generations

Coaching Research Review - Coaching Across Generations

January 26, 2024

Posted by BOLDLY

Ever have clients ask you for a point of view about coaching across the generations? Whether you 'believe' in the generations having differences or not, it's important to have an informed perspective!

At the most practical level, when preparing a coaching plan for coachees of different generations, coaches should be cognizant of the generic generational characteristics and be ready to tailor coaching approaches to individual needs, and leverage technology effectively to engage the coachee.

Here's some credible resources to upgrade your knowledge of the drivers, values and motivations typically found across the 5 generations in our workforce.

  • The Real Differences Between the Generations with Jean Twenge: HERE
  • Dr Twenge's books: HERE

Academic research on generational differences in motivations and personality is a complex and evolving field. However, it's important to note that while some studies have reported generational differences, the magnitude of these differences tends to be relatively small, and individual variations within each generation are often more significant than the differences between generations. Additionally, the impact of generational differences may vary depending on cultural, societal, and historical contexts.


Here are some VERY general insights and important things professional coaches should be aware of when coaching people from different generations (as at 2023). We acknowledge that these generalisations are crude, and should serve as a guide to coaches considering generational differences, however, these trends will not necessarily describe the individual coachee you work with.

  • Diverse Communication Styles: Different generations may have distinct preferences for communication methods. For instance, older generations might prefer face-to-face or phone conversations, while younger generations may be more comfortable with digital communication channels like email or instant messaging. Coaches need to adapt their communication approach to accommodate these preferences.
  • Work-Life Balance: Generational attitudes towards work-life balance can vary significantly. Younger generations often prioritize work-life integration, while older generations may have a stronger focus on traditional work structures. Coaches should be sensitive to these differences and help individuals find harmony between their personal and professional lives.
  • Technology and Digital Literacy: Millennials and Generation Z individuals are typically more tech-savvy than older generations. Coaches need to assess the technological skills and digital literacy of their clients and provide support accordingly, especially when utilizing online coaching platforms or tools.
  • Values and Motivations: Each generation may have different values, motivations, and career aspirations. For instance, younger generations may prioritize job satisfaction and purpose-driven work, while older generations may value stability and financial security. Understanding these differences helps coaches tailor their approach to meet the specific needs of their clients.
  • Learning Styles: People from different generations may have distinct learning preferences. Baby boomers may prefer a structured learning approach, whereas millennials and Generation Z may respond better to more interactive and experiential learning methods. Coaches should consider these preferences when designing coaching programs.
  • Feedback and Recognition: The way individuals respond to feedback and recognition can vary across generations. Younger generations may appreciate more frequent feedback and public recognition, while older generations might prefer private, one-on-one feedback. Coaches should be mindful of these preferences to provide effective support.
  • Career Development: Various generations may have different expectations and approaches to career development. Gen X individuals might value career advancement opportunities, while millennials and Generation Z may prioritize personal growth and development. Coaches can help individuals set appropriate goals and develop strategies based on their generational outlook.
  • Leadership and Management Styles: For coaches working with clients who are leaders or managers, understanding generational differences can be crucial in developing effective leadership styles. Different generations may respond differently to leadership approaches, so coaches can assist in tailoring management techniques accordingly.

It's essential to note that while these generalizations can be helpful, individuals within each generation are unique, and coaches should approach each client as an individual, recognizing that generational traits are just one aspect of their identity.

Here's some additional resources to seek out if you want to go deeper into the research:

  1. Costanza, D. P., Badger, J. M., Fraser, R. L., Severt, J. B., & Gade, P. A. (2012). Generational differences in work-related attitudes: A meta-analysis. Journal of Business and Psychology, 27(4), 375-394. doi:10.1007/s10869-012-9259-4
  2. Ng, E. S., & Parry, E. (2017). Do generational differences matter in leadership? A systematic review of the leadership literature. Journal of Management Studies, 54(3), 408-437. doi:10.1111/joms.12220
  3. Lyons, S. T., Duxbury, L. E., & Higgins, C. A. (2006). A comparison of generational differences in work attitudes. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21(2), 200-219. doi:10.1108/02683940610663118
  4. Twenge, J. M., Campbell, S. M., Hoffman, B. J., & Lance, C. E. (2010). Generational differences in work values: Leisure and extrinsic values increasing, social and intrinsic values decreasing. Journal of Management, 36(5), 1117-1142.
  5. Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, S. M. (2008). Generational differences in psychological traits and their impact on the workplace. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 23(8), 862-877.
  6. Ng, T. W., & Feldman, D. C. (2008). The relationships of age with job attitudes: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 61(3), 673-696.
  7. Deal, J. J., Altman, D. G., & Rogelberg, S. G. (2010). Millennials at work: What we know and what we need to do (if anything). Journal of Business and Psychology, 25(2), 191-199.
  8. Meister, J. C. (2010). The 2020 workplace: How innovative companies attract, develop, and keep tomorrow's employees today. HarperCollins.