Time Will Tell
Have you ever wondered why there’s difference between generations? Having decided to blend our families last May, adjustments have had to be made – from each and all of us – why? I mean, we all grew up in good families, were in good school, have above average intelligence and, can think critically. So why the big adjustments?
Maybe it is because of the generational distinctions. At times a few years ago we had our own home as did the rest of the families and during special occasions we could have all of these generations around the table:
New Silent Generation or Generation Z
Millennials or Generation Y
Let us take a “quick” look at the characteristics of the generations as the sociologists define them and why this can confuse us.
GI Generation: 1900 through 1924 (24 years)
My grandparents were born between 1896 and 1905 (9 years). They were called the G.I. Generation or the Good Warrior generation. Their lifestyle was without technology and was very dependent on self and those close by. Some never moved from the town or county in which they were born.
The GI Generation was unified by shared experiences and common enemies. “Sacrifice for the common good” was a widely accepted norm. Loyalty, hard work, patriotism, respect for authority, self-reliance, and a strong sense of civic obligation are characteristics of this cohort.
The GI Generation tended to take a traditional retirement where work stopped and then they pursued a life of rest and leisure. Having worked hard, often in manufacturing, many yearned for the freedom and fun of the “Golden Years”. Retirement communities became popular for those looking for “a yearlong vacation“.
Silent Generation: 1925 through 1945 (20 years)
My parents were born in 1923 and 1925. My Spouse’s parents were born in 1921. They were deemed the beginning of the Silent Generation or the Good Warriors. They were affected by the Great Depression and had a World War in their prime. They were introduced to the availability of owning an automobile, a business and, their own home. This was coined as “the American dream”. Radio news and programming was prevalent in their early years. Black and white television came while they were raising their family and the number of channels were limited to just a few. Computers showed up toward the end of their lives, but they did not quite become computer savvy
The generation of this era has generally been found to be ambitious, often seeking achievement, power and status, a need for achievement, status and power increased with higher degrees of economic depravity. Perhaps economic losses that effected a one’s family status left children with an ambitious desire to overcome such losses, leading to a generation of aspirations, goals, and purpose.
This generation has also been found to be patriotic and trusting of the American government. Children growing up around the time of the Depression experienced a sense of trust in the government due to the efforts of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945), who’s New Deal programs quickly generated jobs and capital for the American people. Furthermore, this generation came of age during World War II, when patriotism ran high among American Citizens.
Baby Boomer Generation: 1946 through 1964 (18 years)
My spouse and I were born in 1949 with our siblings and friends between 1945 and 1953. We were deemed the Baby Boomers. This is only because there were a lot of us born after WWII and really for no other reason. Because our parents could afford things, we grew up very comfortable with automobiles, television, phones, our own homes and, the creature comforts. But – a big “but” – we had time to think and develop ideologies which led to the upheaval in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. We challenged gender rights, racial rights, economic rights, the validity of war, and political issues. We questioned the status quo. Also, we owned our own automobiles, houses, credit cards, cell phones, color television sets, computers and businesses. We developed our own financial terms. We designed our own houses with passive solar technology and energy efficiency in mind, we moved several times, we started with a black and white television and then to color and then to large color and then to high definition and then to smart television and then to 3D television. Our generation is known for changing homes often, jobs often, cars often, technology quickly and to the next better thing often. And, we live in massive debt. We will live longer than our parents, accumulate more wealth but it will be eaten up by debt because we do like the latest thing.
Work-Centric: Baby Boomers are extremely hardworking and motivated by position, perks and prestige. Baby Boomers relish long work weeks and define themselves by their professional accomplishments. Since they sacrificed a great deal to get where they are in their career, this workaholic generation believes that Generation X and Generation Y should pay their dues and conform to a culture of overwork. Baby Boomers may criticize younger generations for a lack of work ethic and commitment to the workplace.
Independent: Baby Boomers are confident, independent and self-reliant. This generation grew up in an era of reform and believe they can change the world. They questioned established authority systems and challenged the status quo. In the legal workplace, Baby Boomers are not afraid of confrontation and will not hesitate to challenge established practices.
Goal-Oriented: With increased educational and financial opportunities than previous generations, Baby Boomers are achievement-oriented, dedicated and career-focused. They welcome exciting, challenging projects and strive to make a difference.
Competitive: Since Baby Boomers equate work and position with self-worth, they are quite competitive in the workplace. They are clever, resourceful and strive to win. Boomers believe in hierarchal structure and rankism and may have a hard time adjusting to workplace flexibility trends. They believe in “face time” at the office and may fault younger generations for working remotely.
Generation X: 1965 through 1979 (14 years)
We have four children. Three were born in the years labeled Generation X, 1973, 1975 and 1979. Our youngest was born as a Millennial, 1983. They were the result of the Baby Boomer reaction to education, civil disobedience, debt accumulation, entertainment, technology, work ethics, religious beliefs, marriages ending in divorces etc. They were the beneficiaries of the wants and desires of the Baby Boomers. They grew up with computers, high-def television, a sense of controlling pollution, a sense of working but preferring to work for themselves, travel experiences, nice homes and nice cars. Both of their parents were probably working and money for the family was comfortable. They were introduced to computer games – Atari: PacMan, Frogger, Asteriods, Pong, Tanks, – you remember. Cable TV became a household necessity – HBO, MTV, etc. They are politically more moderate and their acceptance of alternative lifestyles is greater than their parents and grandparents – for the most part. They were exposed to diseases like AIDS.
Individualistic: Generation X came of age in an era of two-income families, rising divorce rates and a faltering economy. Women were joining the workforce in large numbers, spawning an age of “latch-key” children. As a result, Generation X is independent, resourceful and self-sufficient. In the workplace, Generation X values freedom and responsibility. Many in this generation display a casual disdain for authority and structured work hours. They dislike being micro-managed and embrace a hands-off management philosophy.
Technologically Adept: The Generation X mentality reflects a shift from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. The first generation to grow up with computers, technology is woven into their lives. As firms and corporate departments integrate new technological tools, Generation X has learned and adapted. This generation is comfortable using PDAs, cellphones, e-mail, laptops, Blackberrys and other technology employed in the workplace.
Flexible: Many Gen Xers lived through tough economic times in the 1980s and saw their workaholic parents lose hard-earned positions. Thus, Generation X is less committed to one employer and more willing to change jobs to get ahead than previous generations. They adapt well to change and are tolerant of alternative lifestyles. Generation X is ambitious and eager to learn new skills but want to accomplish things on their own terms.
Value Work/Life Balance: Unlike previous generations, members of Generation X work to live rather than live to work. They appreciate fun in the workplace and espouse a work hard/play hard mentality. Generation X managers often incorporate humor and games into work activities.
Millennials or Generation Y: 1980 through 2000 (20 years)
You may prefer Gen Y or you may prefer Millennial, no matter. As I said above, our youngest child is in this Generation, born 1983. Not only that, our oldest two grandchildren were also Millennials, born in 1995 and 1997. They are so comfortable with technology – nothing seems to concern them – desktop computers, laptop computers, tablets, smart phones, e-readers, DS, PS, X-box, WII, etc. Give them a piece of technology and they will be able to use it to their advantage. When applying for employment, they would strongly rather apply on-line than in person. They spend a lot of time in front of screens. They prefer instant streaming to set programs. They do like to be around family members and enjoy that interaction – but, they will leave to play a game on their gaming system or their tablet. They are committed to employers as long as those employers allow flexible hours.
Tech-Savvy: Generation Y grew up with technology and rely on it to perform their jobs better. Armed with BlackBerrys, laptops, cellphones and other gadgets, Generation Y is plugged-in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This generation prefers to communicate through e-mail and text messaging rather than face-to-face contact and prefers webinars and online technology to traditional lecture-based presentations.
Family-Centric: The fast-track has lost much of its appeal for Generation Y who is willing to trade high pay for fewer billable hours, flexible schedules and a better work/life balance. While older generations may view this attitude as narcissistic or lacking commitment, discipline and drive, Generation Y legal professionals have a different vision of workplace expectations and prioritize family over work.
Achievement-Oriented: Nurtured and pampered by parents who did not want to make the mistakes of the previous generation, Generation Y is confident, ambitious and achievement-oriented. They have high expectations of their employers, seek out new challenges and are not afraid to question authority. Generation Y wants meaningful work and a solid learning curve.
Team-Oriented: As children, Generation Y participated in team sports, play groups and other group activities. They value teamwork and seek the input and affirmation of others. Part of a no-person-left-behind generation, Generation Y is loyal, committed and wants to be included and involved.
Attention-Craving: Generation Y craves attention in the forms of feedback and guidance. They appreciate being kept in the loop and seek frequent praise and reassurance. Generation Y may benefit greatly from mentors who can help guide and develop their young careers.
New Silent Generation or Generation Z: 2001 to present (so far 12 years)
We have three grand-daughters in this Generation. The oldest was born in 2001 and definitely shows characteristics consistent with Generation Y. The second grand-daughter was born in 2005 and the youngest was born in 2006. They are still developing their personality traits. They are all strong-willed and not afraid to speak up for themselves. Here is what the authorities say about this generation:
Just when we all finally think we have a handle on how to talk to, interact with, attract, and retain Millennials, the inevitable happens: A new generation comes of age. Sorry, Millennials, but it looks like soon you may have some competition for that bright spotlight. While members of Generation Z (loosely defined as people born between 1995 and today) may still have a few years before they begin to trickle into our corporate halls, they will be the next big generation to enter the workforce after the Millennials, or Gen Y. If history has taught us anything, it’s that HR and L&D can be slow to adjust to the changing needs of the workforce. Hopefully we will be better prepared for Generation Z and the changes they will inspire.
Generation Z is innately reliant on technology. These individuals have been using technology since infancy; however, unlike their Millennial and Gen X counterparts, Generation Z will be “normal” users of technology, meaning they won’t necessarily be the most tech savvy when it comes to programming behind the device. What does this mean for HR and L&D? We should be thinking about how we can automate and use technology in our work processes, structures, and so forth to cater to Generation Z’s technological preferences, but don’t expect this generation to be as technologically savvy or adept as previous generations. They just want technology that is easy to use and will solve their problems, help coordinate their activities, or provide them with relevant people or information.
Generation Z is hyper-connected. The connected quality of the millennial generation will only be amplified by Generation Z. In fact, a recent Wikia study cited that 60 percent of Generation Z says they like to share their knowledge with others online. This is a strong indicator that this generation will want access to collaborative learning opportunities and technologies once they have entered the workforce. Due to their abundant use of social media, they will likely approach learning and development in a networked fashion, much like the millennial generation, so it makes sense to continue thinking about how to integrate social learning elements into L&D practices.
Generation Z is increasingly “in the moment.” This generation will spend way more time in the “relevant now,” leveraging pertinent information and knowledge that is dependent on what a particular moment dictates. This means that pre-scheduled and pre-planned learning activities (for example, training or lectures) will be less effective in developing these individuals. Generation Z will be much more likely to engage in ad hoc and on-demand learning and development activities, enabled by technology, that are related and relevant to the individual in that moment. This generation will bring a whole new meaning to just-in-time learning.
Generation Z = mobile. According to a 2012 Forrester Research study, Generation Z is the second largest demographic owning an iPhone (24 percent), with Millennials ranking highest at 29 percent. It seems safe to say that Generation Z will be highly mobile and will demand learning and development opportunities that can support their free and nomadic nature. It’s not out of the question to see the standard 9 to 5 desk job fade into an era defined by mobile work and supported by mobile corporate learning and development.
The bottom line: Like their Gen Y predecessors, Generation Z will rely on their network of relationships to help them facilitate their own professional learning and development and help them navigate through the corporate world. As learning leaders, we need to consider Generation Z’s characteristics and take a critical look at our L&D programs, courses, materials, and the like to determine if our practices can accommodate the growing ranks of our multigenerational workforces. If we’ve learned anything from the influx of Millennials, it’s that we better prepare for this now so we can be ready for tomorrow.
My spouse and I will be 65 years old in 2014. As we blend our mufti-generational family and place them under one roof, we have multi-levels of cause and effect. We have to make adjustments. We cause adjustments.