Tuesday, 3 May 2011

X, Y and Z generations - what does it mean for the future?

On holiday last week the differences between the X and Y generations came up twice - so I thought it deserved a bit more investigation and definitely a blog entry! Why the interest from me? Well both conversations came up with friends who work for large corporates which are using this social categorisation for planning things like how offices/places of work will be used (or not given the rise in mobile technology) and how people will be recruited/trained.

I'm from the X generation - born 1966-76 (some say up to '82). Some of the reading is not very complimentary! I'm from a generation of “latchkey” kids, exposed to lots of daycare and divorce. Fellow X generations, we are “the generation that dropped out without ever turning on the news or tuning in to the social issues around them,”(or so says Newsweek). Gen-X-ers are proprtedly sceptical but are some of the best educated, with 29% having obtained a bachelor's degree or higher. We are a cautious generation and we have a relatively recent uptake of technology, but in the main we are technologically engaged.

4 of my siblings (I'm one of 6) are from the Y generation born 1977-94 (some say after '82). The Gen-Y-ers are sophisticated, technology savvy and much more independently minded. They are hard to influence because of their diverse means of accessing media (internet, scoail media, extensive TV networks, internet/satellite radio etc.) Gen-Y-ers are often raised in dual income households and involved in purchasing decisions, so they are savvy on what things cost and what choices are available. I would argue that the myriad of options and opportunities makes for low attention span and less inquisitive souls... but that's just my view.

So what? Well, it seems many corporates are structuring their workplaces, graduate trainee programmes and career mentoring to cater for the new-to-workplace Gen-Y-ers. Things like because they are so technologically savvy, they can work on the move, don't need an office base; some companies are even thinking of relinquishing office space in anticipation of the cost-savings this techno-wave could bring to traditional bricks and mortar office space. Training programmes are being tailored to the Y-Gens' heightened awareness of their 'self' and their value... expectations are higher, menial jobs at the bottom of the office ladder are not longer expected nor tolerated... so look out us out-dated Gen-X-ers... the Y geneartion are hot on our heels and want to see us doing the virtual filing and making the coffee!

As for generation Z, well technology will be bread and butter for these guys, as will a heightened awareness of their economic and physical environment. In Western economies, maybe the legacy of debt, aging populations and greater environmental challenges will bring the whole cycle full circle to make them similar to the hard-working doers and builders of the post-WW2 era - but with the added bonus of modern technology to help. I hope so.


  1. How are those of us of the W generation (born in the forties and fifties)supposed to cope? :-)

  2. You can be the teachers of how it's really supposed to be done Andrew ;-)