The sad fact is that in the UK and the developed world, we are slowly depopulating ourselves. Birth rates are falling whilst longevity increases; in 2006 there were more 55-64 year olds than 16-24 year olds for the first time. Whilst the ‘grey pound’ is a great opportunity for some businesses and the increasing need for related services this is an opportunity that is well catalogued. At the same time the emerging next generation of future business joiners are proving to be very different to previous generations.
The Baby Boomers are the post war era generation, born between 1946 and 1964; whilst Generation X’ers were borne between 1965 and 1980. The latest generation, ‘Generation Y’, are just coming into the working population and born between 1985 and 1995.
Each generation has different aspirations and ruling ideologies. For the early Baby Boomers, growing in the optimism of the post war era and the sense of making the world a better place they continue to strive and believe that duty and patience pay off; often driven by an ethic that can best be summed up as ‘work hard and you will do better than your parents’. For the late Baby Boomers they grew up in a world that saw its heroes crumble, be it Nixon or Kennedy; empires retracted and the cold war bred suspicion and a need for freedom; Woodstock and Flower Power were the anthem of the generation.
The Generation X’ers added disrespect for authority to the need for freedom and disregarded the need to accumulate wealth and position. A generation that had been told that they could have it all now actually decided to take it!
It is perhaps too early to tell what Generation Y will bring to work; early indications suggest independence, social conscience, confidence and technological savvy. They have new heroes that are more likely to be sporting than musical; they have embraced the democratic principles of the internet and are driven by brand and not loyalty; the free availability of credit means that they want it now and can have it too!
We face a world in which the Baby Boomers control the institution; Generation X are the managers and Generation Y are the consumers and new joiners.
Effective organisations need to look inside themselves to tap the rich source of ideas and energy. To think about how they are defending themselves against another generation and to nurture and develop new talent.
The questions to ponder are:
- How am I defending my generation?
- How are we appealing to a new generation of employees?
- How do we recruit and train them?
- Once we have them, how do we manage and keep them?
Finally, try this, judge a generation by its heroes:
Churchill, Kennedy, Thatcher, Bob Dylan or Ellen Macarthur?
Who are your heroes?