I saw a video today which re-ignited a thought of mine, which has been bubbling away in dormant fury for the last few years.
I have got fed up with generation generalisations. In particular the constant genuflecting to the Gen Y's of the world. Get ready world, change everything here they come! They need to be treated different, they expect more, more quickly, they care for the environment, the crave community, they are more fluid in their employment ideals, they are new, fresh, the likes of we have never seen before etc etc etc... blah blah blah...
Is this a real work place Revolution? Or is it the same as it always has been for new generations making their way in the world?
Here are a few of the thoughts that have been floating around in my head.
Is the Gen Y phenomenon that new? Doesn't every generation seem "different" to the preceding generations? The Baby Boomers "freaked out" their parents, the social discourse found in the 1960's is a badge lots of that generation hold onto. However they were born into an era of prosperity, which afforded them the freedom to think big, to dream and to expect those dreams to become reality..(sound familiar?) The world keeps evolving, but as they say the more things change the more they stay the same.
Older people will always think their way is the right way and younger people will think they know how to do it better, and will tell the other party that. My 5 year old is re-affirming this for me at the moment.
With the war for talent currently in a state of detente, will the apparent need to bend to the apparent will of the Gen Ys of the world, dissipate? I know it will in a number of companies with Leaders across the world thinking people will be thankful for employment, "they should feel lucky working for us."
I presented a talk to a Group of first year University students the other week, around the topic of "Consulting, what it means to me and should mean to you." Whilst I was preparing this talk, it occurred to me that this generation of students won't have the advantages of their predecessors (ie those graduating 1 or 2 years ago) when it comes to job search, I'll be surprised if employers are clamouring all over themselves to hire as many of them as they can (although I also believe that those who do will have a huge competitive advantage in the future, but that's a different post.) Their prospects in the near future are a little scary, they may have to work harder to find their first job, they may have to accept things like starting at the bottom and working their way up, of not just being the most junior person on site to actually being treated like that.
Will the perception of entitlement disappear or become more realistic now that we are in economically unpleasant times? Will that confidence we associate with that generation fade away?
Did Baby Boomers eventually tow the line when the economic climate changed and they gained more responsibilities? Did the Utopian ideals go the way of the Dodo when they had to deliver food and shelter for their families? Or did they become more like their parents (shudder) just morphed versions.
Obviously the world has changed, evolved if you will. Certain ideals are not common place anymore, technology has evolved and will continue to evolve. Things are different. However, is the generation gap any different now to what it was 20-30-40-50 years ago? The Baby Boomers would have had to put up with the questions around their "far out" ideals, of social etiquette, questions over their attitude to work, questions over their behaviour, questions over their music, questions over their hair cuts etc.
Is this just the human race version of collaboration and versioning? Everyone builds on what was done before. Some things better, some things worse, some things change, some don't. Very little is torn down, and rebuilt from scratch.
Social Networking and collaboration etc as just technical versions of what people had to do face to face previously. Same thing, just with a different spin. Does the way the world works have to revolutionise itself or will this new generation work their way into corporations and just continue to evolve the practices, over time, the way it has always been done?