Cross-Generational Q&A Series- Part 1

Best-Selling author Jason Dorsey, Gen Y expert and Chief Strategy Officer at The Center for Generational Kinetics, provided the opening keynote address at SHARE in Anaheim earlier in 2012. His latest book “Y-Size Your Business” provides 50 ways to increase Gen Y’s workplace performance, with chapters on motivation, professionalism and loyalty. I caught up with Jason for a virtual chat for the first in a 5-part series of Q&As about the crisscrossing generations in today’s mainframe workforce.

Jason, in your keynote address, you stressed that today there are four generations in the workplace, which is unprecedented in our society. What three trends do you believe created this unique situation?

The biggest trend is the rate of technology change continues to increase. The result is that everything -- life stage to longevity – is being impacted. In addition, you have trends such as parenting, where a group like Gen Y is having kids at a later age than previous generations. A third trend is globalization. The more the world becomes interconnected the more that creates experiences, interactions, and expectations that previous generations did not have.

Given that no single factor defines any one person or any one generation, in your opinion is there one key driver for each of these generations?

Traditionalists (Born Pre-1946)?  The drivers are the great depression and military service.

Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964?  The drivers are a “work ethic” mentality and now pushing back for more balance if possible.

GenX (1965-1976)?  The drivers are broken promises from companies to parental divorce leading to a focus on self-reliance.

GenY (Born 1977-1995)?  The drivers are Boomer parents who created a sense of delayed adulthood and technology ubiquity.

In your address, you gave several great recommendations for managing GenY in the workplace. But if you had to give someone from each generation one piece of advice, what would it be for:

Traditionalists?  Your experience is extremely valuable for other generations.

Boomers?  Your desire to get things done right helps other generations look at how they take on tasks.

GenX?  Your natural skepticism is an asset for vetting ideas and plans.

Gen Y?  Your tech comfort and optimism are valuable to companies of all sizes.

Will managing across four generations become business as usual? Or do you predict this situation will be temporary?

At The Center for Generational Kinetics, we predict there will briefly be 5 generations in the workforce—with iGens only now becoming old enough to start working. However, Traditionalists are increasingly exiting the workforce due to a variety of factors so we believe the pendulum will swing back to four generations become the new normal. It is important to note, though, that there is an argument that future generations will become shorter in duration due to the increasing rate of change. If this becomes true, then more than four generations working side by side could become the long-term new normal.

What is the next great generational challenge? And how do suggest converting this challenge into opportunity?

The next generational challenge will be the emergence of the iGeneration. This is the generation born after 1995. They do not remember September the 11th. This group has a different view of how to communicate and leverage technology. For example, they might send a document via Skype rather than email. This new generation will bring the challenge of being different than previous generations as well as the opportunity of a new perspective and talents.

The Cross-Generational Q&A Series continues in Part 2.

Communications strategist Bob Dirkes attended SHARE in Anaheim and San Francisco on special assignment. Follow him on Twitter @RCDirkes. Follow SHARE on Twitter @SHAREhq.

Continue on to Part 2.

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