Where does one generation start and another end? Are you a Gen X-er, Baby Boomer, Generation Z, a Millenial or even an Xennial*?
If you’re not sure, take this simple test: can you remember a time when meeting up with your friends didn’t involve setting up a WhatsApp group with countless options, but agreeing on a time a place, and then just, well, turning up there?
Your answer to this will probably determine who your generational ‘tribe’ is. If you had the largely analogue upbringing of the post-war Baby boomers or the Gen Xers (born roughly between 1965 and 1981), you’ll remember a childhood without checking in on social media and if your first memory is of scrolling through nursery rhymes on a tablet then you’re definitely in the digitally-native Gen Z cohort.
A huge amount of time and money goes into researching and defining the characteristics of different generations and with good reason. It’s important to understand what motivates and appeals to each group and how our attitudes to work and the wider world differ. It’s also pretty easy to lump everyone into the same categories when it comes to age and it’s convenient to use these demographic generalisations. The term millennial in particular has become shorthand for a whole host of characteristics and traits, from tech-savvy, optimistic and free spirited to the less complimentary ‘generation me.’
It stands to reason that we’re all shaped by the technology, environment and economic climate of our formative years. However these generalisations, particularly when it comes to an appetite for new technology, can often be made in a way which reduces us to stereotypes, which don’t always play out in reality. According to research by DDI, 54% of Generation X leaders are digitally savvy, on pace with Millenials (54%). Likewise, I know some pretty tech-savvy septugenarians who are extremely keen to keep pace with the latest apps and willing to learn. Just as I know some thirty-somethings who couldn’t give two hoots about updating their status on social media.
These anomalies aside, it’s also evident that, rather than playing one generation off against another perhaps, instead, we should focus more on what one generation can learn from another. To this end, it’s interesting that reverse-mentoring is taking off in many workplaces with more senior executives seeking insight from younger colleagues for guidance. I know from our own creative sessions and brainstorms that we absolutely need to have views from different generations to get the best ideas; no one has the monopoly on creativity and a well-rounded workplace needs to take on board the input of everyone there – whatever their ‘tribe’. So whether you’re an X-er, boomer or millennial, you’re also an individual with viewpoints, experiences and insight that other generations can learn from.
*in case you wondered it’s anyone born between 1977 and 1985