The jury is still out with me regarding generational differences. Some people say the generations are significantly different; some people don’t. I understand there has been a lot of research done to categorize groups of people based upon when they were born. The idea is, this research may offer insights to help marketers, managers, government leaders, etc. understand societal needs of the future.
But I can’t help but think one of the key reasons that generations are different is because of the kind of world they live in and what things they have exposure to. For example, I’m old enough to remember what my job was like without email. And, I admit…I remember those brick cell phones.
People entering the workforce today don’t recall any of those things. They have a different frame of reference and that changes their perspective. In a good way, I might add.
If you want to gain some insight about the generation currently entering the workforce, check out the Beloit College website Mindset Moment. The site lists the “mindset” for the students currently entering college. It’s really interesting – here are a couple of tidbits about the Class of 2014:
Most don’t know how to write cursive.
The cliché “Go West” – doesn’t refer to California. It means China.
Lapel ribbons have always been worn to support a cause.
Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.
See what I mean? If I grew up during a time when toothpaste tubes have always stood on their caps, I’d probably have a different view of life, family, work and government.
Individuals are just that…individuals. With their own thoughts, ideas, opinions and dreams. But don’t forget, we all have a mindset that we’re working from.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons0
Robert Dempsey says
This is a great post that marketers especially really need to read. I agree that the differences are a matter of frame of reference. My 3-year-old daughter is going to laugh at me later for the things I’ll be talking about. It’s all good though.
This brings up the very important point that if you’re working with a team of people, or marketing to them, or just interacting at an event, you need to be aware of what’s going on around them. At that point you can make deeper connections. Thing is most don’t try and don’t want to.
Michael Brisciana says
I, too, am at least a little bit skeptical about over-exaggerating “generational” differences. There’s no doubt that different generations have grown up with different influences and expectations (e.g., land lines vs. smart phones, transistor radios vs.ipods, etc.). To your point, though, at the end of the day, individuals are individuals. I think that there’s a risk in treating people generically — or making assumptions about them generically — based solely on generation. Example: You might be interviewing a 25-year old who is as fluent in social media / technology as any of his peers, but at the same time is as “old school” in his approach to work as anyone from a generation or two earlier. Generations, yes … but individuals, more so.
Great post! Recently a friend of mine, who is a kindergarten teacher, told me that they aren’t teaching cursive anymore! *gasp* That’s crazy, right? I mentioned it to another friend who said, “why would they ever need to use it? Do you write in cursive?” She has a point – I don’t write in cursive. But even so. Will cursive one day look like hieroglyphics to fourth graders?
Next thing you know, they will be doing away with books! …oh, wait…they are…blast those e-readers.
Sharlyn Lauby says
@Robert – So true. You have to make an effort to try. Thanks!
@Michael – Your social media example is perfect. I have friends who are card carrying members of AARP who know more about social media than college students. Just goes to show ya – can’t make assumptions based upon age. Thanks for the comment!
@Ginger – I do still write in cursive…guess I’m showing my age. Ha! Thanks for sharing.
Ed Newman says
I am with you on this. Not sure I believe all the predictions about the Millennial generation. I actually think Birth Order in a family may be a more significant influence than the year or decade someone was born.
I have been experimenting and asked all my kids to write a blog post for me (at Accidental-Entrepreneur), I call the series From The Mind of a Millennial. My goal is to show some real perspectives of 4 kids who were born in the 90’s.
When dealing with different generations in the workplace, it is essential to focus on the employee rather than the generation. TNS Employee Insights offers a great article on this topic:
Workplace Generations: Manage Employees versus Generations
Sharlyn Lauby says
Hi Gail. I spiffied up your comment by just adding the direct link to your post. Hope you don’t mind…
Sharlyn Lauby says
Hi Ed! Sorry for getting my replies out of order. Thanks for the comment. I’m a fan of your blog and have enjoyed reading the series. Keep up the great writing!