Generation Y and Boomers : Together They Can

One more article that adds to the already imposing amount of Gen-Y related things. I (finally) recently came across something really worth on the subject in the latest issue of the HBR, an analysis relying on a survey conducted across 50 multinational companies and that confirms what we’ve been seing on the ground, even if it does not please those who’d like to find a generation divide where it’s not.

As surprising as it may seem, Yers and Boomers have nearly the same expectations. They want, thought their work, to contribute to something that goes far beyond the business, something that looks like what Gary Hamel called a “higher purpose” in his 12 moonshots. Both are looking for flexibility. Neither one nor they other want too much telecommuting because they value real huan contacts. Boomers are alsovery likely to be involved in networks, rather in order to give something back to the society. They are still impregnated with the ideals of the 70s. Globally speaking, both value social relationships at work. I let you read the whole article to have the whole comparison.

So, at the end, where are the differences that are supposed to radically transform the workspace ?

First, we can wonder why they are so similar. Yers have their expectations, that’s a fact, but even if current organizations frustrates them, they’re not feeling like doing the revolution. But they’ll take the most of every existing breach and use the fact they’re shown as change drivers (self fulfilling prophecy ?) to make their moves when possible, in order to build a workspace that fits their expectations.

As for Boomers, they still have some social ideals, inherited from the end of the 60s. More, they don’t have things to learn anymore from the system and clearly see its limits. They reached a point in their career where they can pull off the masks : they won’t climb the organization chart anymore, are growing away from power and competition issues. It makes them have a vision that’s more collective and less selfish, to distance themselves whose they know the limits. They are also reaching an age when people often want to give, to give back, to transmit their experience to youngers as they know their careers are close to the end. For instance, 65% of boomers like to take younger people under their wing.

Sharing many values, these generations have many things to do together. The article suggests an intergenerational mentorship (humm… reminds me of something) and quotes Cisco and Booz Allen Hamilton as examples. Strangely, these are two enterprise 2.0 successful examples (is it really luck ?). Notice, if you don’t like modernism, that Jack Welch did something similar at GE.

So, is there really any generation gap ?

There is, between Yers and Boomers, a middle generation made of people born between 1965 and 1978, called Generation Y. It’s  made of all the people aged between 30 and 40, who merged in the matrix, forgetting their own expectations, and are not very likely to approve the end of the existing system while they are so close to gets the benefits of their efforts (ie replacing boomers) after 10 or 15 years of sacrifice. More, they can’t understand why they should adapt to Yers whereas the previous generation didn’t make any effort for them. That’s why some call them Generation O, that stands for “Organization Chart”.

quadras qui se sont fondus dans le moule, enterrant parfois leurs propres aspirations, et voient d’un mauvais oeil la fin d’un système auquel ils se sont conformés et qui toucherait à sa fin alors même qu’ils sont prêts, enfin, d’en toucher les dividendes (comprenez…prendre la place des Boomers) après 10 ou 15 ans de sacrifices. D’autant plus qu’ils ne voient certainement pas pourquoi s’adapter aux Y alors qu’on ne les pas accueilli avec autant d’égards en leur temps.

In a minority regarding to Yers and boomers taken together, they are the missing link, those who stand on the brakes. Maybe most of them are also facing the “mid-managemer syndrome”. The weight of the two other generations and the beneifts of making them move forward together implies, according to the author, that companies should favor the “Y+boomers” duet.

Do you think that X will move if they are caught in a pincer movement ? Or, making them really feel alone would be like a bomb with a timing device ?

Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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