Generation gap myths exposed

Generation gap myths exposed

The workplace stereotypes of separate tribes of baby boomers, generation X and generation Y are a myth, says global workplace consultant DEGW.

The workplace stereotypes - of separate tribes of baby boomers, generation X and generation Y - are a myth, says global workplace consultant DEGW. For years, many commentators have pointed out how generations X and Y are more mobile, more demanding, and more technologically savvy workers than the baby boomers.

Not DEGW. "We went looking for differences and we did not find them to the degree we thought we would," DEGW regional director Chris Alcock said.

"In fact the greater variances were to do with gender."

The UK-based firm has a strong academic background and led the move to the new office in the 1990s.

To start thinking about the workplace of 2015, the DEGW wanted to know whether generation X (now aged 32 to 43) and generation Y (17 to 31) really did work differently to the baby boomers (44 to 62).

So they interviewed 1500 people in eight corporations, and presented the findings to the CoreNet Global conference in Sydney.

"The results were not what we expected," Mr Alcock said.

"A lot of what has been put out by commentators; we have not been able to substantiate that."

"There were more similarities between the generations than had previously been assumed."

Each generation ranked technology as equally important, each had the same view of sustainability and the differences in style of work were minimal.

True to stereotype, generations X and Y had worked at their organisations for shorter periods than the baby boomers.

But Mr Alcock said their employment records were likely no different than those of the baby boomers at a similar age.

Overall every generation ranked culture as the most important factor in attracting and retaining staff.

Then came technology, location and, lastly, the appearance and design of the workplace.

"The workplace has a levelling effect on generational behaviours," Mr Alcock concluded.

Vodafone and human resources consultant Hewitt Associates have come to a similar conclusion.

Earlier this year Hewitt Associates managing director David Brown told The Australian Financial Review that there were better ways to understand and analyse staff behaviour than by using their age group.

At Vodafone, Mr Hewitt has been segmenting staff based on motivations.

Mr Alcock said the differences between the sexes were greater than those between the generations.

In fact it was not generation X or generation Y that had had the most jobs in their work careers, but baby boomer women.

Mr Alcock said the big changes to workplace design would come with generation Z, the so-called net generation born after 1992.

"This is the generation for which we should be planning," he said.

All of today's workers are "digital immigrants" who grew up in a non-digital world and migrated to digital.

"Generation Z is the start of a new era.

"They are digital natives and are fundamentally different - not just a matter of distinctive styles or choices of learning but they have completely different ways of absorbing and linking information."


· DEGW interviewed 1500 people working in eight corporations.

· The consultants found many similarities between generations.

· Culture is important in attracting and retaining staff.

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