Monday, 20 June 2011

Generation X and Y uncovered

I admit I was only ever vaguely aware of the Generation X and Generation Y debate...

...And it was only when my colleague John kept referring to it in that knowing way that people “in the know” do when they know you’re not – in the know that is - that I felt inclined to take a closer look.  With many original opinions claimed on the subject the most readable explanation was an article by Jo Jackson.
Jo brings opinion up to date and introduces Generation Z - born post 1995 - and of course as happens with these social profiling questions the first thing I wanted to know is where I fitted in? Well it obviously wouldn’t be “X” or “Y” I knew that much about it. “Boomer” seemed a fair bet - what with the 60’s and all that. But I certainly wasn’t prepared for the shock  I got on discovering I was a “Veteran!!”  Yep – post war cohort born 1928 to 1945 - surely not? And as I read on...  “disciplined ...respect for law and order ….comfortable with command management style” confirmed it -yes that’s me all right.

But hold a second - “optimistic, ambitious and loyal ….job status conscious.” Yes, that’s me too - and that’s your Baby Boomer. OK I'm happy now - I’m on the cusp.

Generation Y
Even if unread on the subject you won't have escaped the Generation X and Y effect if you’ve been in any kind of communication or relationship oriented career, had kids, or paid attention to the world around you as you grew up.
Certainly as a know-it-all 15 year old I had different values and opinions to my dad, my schoolteacher, the caretaker who “policed” the flats where we lived, and practically everyone remotely connected with authority – which was anyone more than 5 years older than me. And together with my mates I insured those differences were always recognised by talking in an alternative language designed to confuse and exclude our elders.
Then when I was a 20 year old I experienced the second phase - Next Generation Reversed Perspective. It was the Beatle's Christmas Concert at the Hammersmith Odeon. We'd taken two 15 year olds - and overhearing them chatting about the upcoming acts I realised they were talking in a language that now excluded me!  It got worse when they gasped in disbelief on reading that one of their heroes  "was 21!!" I gulped in dismay - realising that I was now officially past it.
Get to the point please...

Winding forward to my 40's I then remember working with a former boss and mentor - he'd always been a role model for his directness and fluency with words - and hearing his "anarchic" young team agreeing "he'd always use ten words when three would do!"
And then only last week Holly was telling me "Gran-dad ...I'd love to hear the end of your story ...but I must get on!" Bless her.

So inter-generation dialogue has always been an issue.  But it certainly is more conspicuous now because of mobile communication technology and social networks. But they haven't caused the problem. They've certainly encouraged a new alternative language of phonetics and shorthand - things need to be said quicker as Holly points out.

Keep out - Generation Y only

But it's not just about brevity. The  "Y" and "Z's" really love their 'phones and facebook.  They provide peer acceptance, empowerment and inclusiveness - all huge issues in a coming-of-age generation.  And issues that in turn influence and shape values, beliefs, needs and opinions - shepherding individual belief systems into the strongly defined group identities we now see.
As anyone in communications knows it's the belief system that lies at the heart of choices and decisions that we make.  So as we strive for hearts and minds - tailoring the message for the distinctive groups ...and getting it across in a minimum of words seems a pretty essential strategy.

But inclusiveness has an exclusive side to it as far as outsiders are concerned - and as brand managers and employee engagement managers rush to embrace social media they need to ensure there is congruence between message and messenger - or else the audience won't let them in.
Listening to a "Generation X going on Vet"  talking about his "wicked apps" is more likely to prompt thoughts of disco dad rather than garner attention and create rapport with this generation.

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