The Generation Game

Generations and their impact on the workspace – that is what this article is not about. There is plenty of consideration from the media and designers around how we need to consider that there are now four generations in the workforce etc. All very relevant indeed, however, for this post I have set out simply to outline my take on who is who in the generation zoo. To be honest, the definitions and years associated with each generation are all over the place, and the ‘internet’ does not really help (so does it all really matter? I’ll address that later). I say if you were born close to the end of one and at the beginning of another, pick the one you best associate with. Me. I was born in 1978, Gen X all the way.

For the sake of arguments around which is the best generation, I hand over to the English novelist marked by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and commitment to democratic socialism, George Orwell, who said ..

Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”

It should also be noted that this is all very much a western cultural take on generations. The rest of the world will have their own generational definitions based on major cultural, political, and economic influences.

So to get going, and especially for the Anglophiles out there, paying to homage to both the title of this post and the great Bruce Forsyth … “What’s on the board, Miss Ford?

Baby Boomers / Born after the Second World War (say for arguments sake, 1946) and up to the early 1960s / Other names: Not really.

Generation X / Born after the Western Post–World War II baby boom in the early 1960s to 1981 / Other names? Gen X. Interestingly, did you know that the man credited for christening this generation with such a deeply dull label is Robert Capa, the war photographer. However, confusingly, he was referring to young adults growing up in the early 1950s. So, in fact, Capa’s bunch of kids were born before the War – which is not what we now mean by Gen X. Right ..?

Generation Y / Born from 1981 to 2000 / Other names: Millennials / Gen Y / The Me Me Me Generation / Echo Boomers. There is so much written on this generation. Interestingly, this year, Gen Y is projected to surpass the Baby Boomers as the largest living generation in the US, mainly due to the number of young migrants arriving in the US.

Generation Z / Born from 2000 to now (in three years they will be arriving in the workforce en mass) / Other names: Pluralist generation (or Plurals) / Post-Millennials / Gen Wii / iGeneration. There are actually loads of names. It shows that people love to create a generation brand, hope it sticks and then claim that they coined it. As with all of the generations, there is no agreement on the exact dates of this generation with some sources starting it at the mid or late 1990s or the more widely used period from the mid 2000s to the present day.

The fact that there is so much overlap, and in the end it is all completely arbitrary to the person you are, where you live, how you live etc. The period you grew up in has informed you, but what generation you may be, should not define you.

Finally, perhaps less focus should be made on catering for all the generations in a workspace, but rather focus on what is coming (technology wise etc) and simply change, train and encourage all generations to accept and learn the new.

Make sense? No? Still confused? Yes. I suggest you also read this interesting recent article: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/01/16/this-year-millennials-will-overtake-baby-boomers/

Thanks for reading.

Kai

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