The Generation Game

Playing the generation game in the workplace

It’s the rise and rise of the Millennials apparently.  They get a lot of press.  But is it all about them?

Every day it seems there are more headlines about Millennials (or Generation Y to give them their more prosaic title): “Millennials spend more/ less (delete as applicable)!”, “Millennials will be outnumbered by Generation Z!”.  Why the fascination with this group of 20 to 30 somethings?  What about Generation X and Z?  What can each group learn from each other by playing the generation game in the workplace?

In our recent blog on the future of market research, we talked about the benefits of combining experience with technology.  Market Research is an industry that is seemingly more and more populated by ‘bright young things’.  They are entering the workforce with incredible energy, hyper-connectedness, at least a Bachelor’s degree (and often a Masters), and are tech-savvy (and maybe tech-dependent).  But what do previous and subsequent generations offer?

Let’s look at each generation in turn.

Generation X: experience never gets old

Millennials are much debated, but their rise, like every other generation before and after, is inevitable.  Whilst Millennials saw digital technology take-off and become the norm, it was their predecessors, Generation X, who invented mobile phones, worked on desktop computers using DOS and used dumb terminals connected to a central mainframe.  Generation X market researchers sent faxes, presented on overhead projectors (‘animation’ involved moving a blank sheet of A4 down the acetate little by little) and worked the phones and events hard to make appointments to meet face to face.

All of this adds up to experience and expertise.  An experienced researcher with a few decades of work behind them have an awful lot to share and to draw on when conducting their work.  That includes developing a sound methodology, challenging requests, providing advice, presenting results and making recommendations.

Generation Y: new ways of working

As Millennials progress through a world of work that is changing by the day, they are a generation who will have multiple roles throughout their careers; perhaps several careers in fact.  Clearly, this means their tenure in any one role is going to be shorter than perhaps was the average in the past.  If they really are going to have 10-15 roles in a career spanning 45 years, then an average tenure of 4-5 years seems logical.  Wow, the experience they will have, the lessons they will be able to pass on, the advice they will be able to give – amazing.  But, they’re not quite there yet!

Generation Z: coming of age

As the first truly digital native generation, unacquainted with a world before touch screens and hyper connectivity, enter the workforce over the next few years they have much to learn but also much to teach.  They will bring the freshness of youth, creativity, innovation.  They don’t need to know how a fax machine works but they will have new ideas on how to connect with audiences.

X+Y+Z = balance

The workforce now is made up of Boomers, Gen X, Millennials with Gen Z hot on their heels.  A balanced workforce of each generation brings experience, wisdom, expertise, confidence, enthusiasm, innovation and freshness.  In an industry like market research, experience matters.  Add in a willingness to embrace new technology and techniques and you have the perfect set-up.  As with everything in life, balance brings harmony.

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