I went to an evening about generational learning and it was full of these kind of dialogues between different generations:
"How would it be to work in an organisation without the younger generations?"
Older person: "It would be very boring!"
Older person: "how would it be to work in an organisation without the older generations?"
Young person: "I would miss the complaining..." :)
Edna Walhain and Emiel Nijenhuis from Koffie en bubbels provided some background information about 4 generations. The characteristics of a generation can be explained by looking at the formative period, the period when people are between 15 and 25 years of age. This is when their ideas and values are formed. Screenagers (born between 1985 and 2000, grew up with internet and lots of individual attention and self-esteem), the Pragmatic generation born between 1970-1985, generation X (born 1955- 1970 - grown with fear of the bomb, cold war and oil crises) and babyboomers (born 1940-55, the protestgeneration, formative period the 60s).
STATEMENT "Without youth, organizations do not keep up with technological developments" Technology was a recurrent theme in a lot of discussions. Young people are skilled in dealing with new technologies and flexible in searching good applications for their work. They don't follow and accept the organisational technologies, they go in search of the best programs, which clashes with a lot of organisational policies. Older generations have grown up with the idea that technology and software is expensive and scarce, while screenagers see technology everywhere, inexpensive and for anyone to use. An example was shared of an older employee who did a table in word instead of excel because the teamleader told him so. Younger people would question this and find an alternative solution. An important explanation that youth are embracing social media and collaboration technologies is deeper, however, it is the drive behind it. Social media fits with the way young people want to work collaboratively and fast. They want to seek knowledge and share within networks. They don't want to accept and work through the hierarchy but like to move fast through -constantly changing- networks.
An interesting discussion was also the observation that having youth around does not automatically lead to innovation within the organisation. It depends on the number of young people (1 trainee will not make a difference ) and the space the organisation provided to young people to influence the culture, the way of working. It is not clear that is going to be the case. Listened to junior in a hierarchical organization is not so natural because of the ideas and convictions about where knowledge is vested - in people with experience. This leads to the situation where you need experience in order to be heard and have influence in an organisation.
I certainly believe in the generational differences although I often encounter people who question it. I'm a living example of course, of the fact that the differences don't mean that older people are not clever using online technologies and are not in favour of online sharing. However, I see the differences as well. I'm for instance much slower than the young. I'm at 4 hops with flappybird while my daughter is already at 150. I also recognize a number of beliefs like the importance of experience, and networking is not always my first nature. It was an evening with lots of insights and I will definitely try to work more consciously with different generations in some upcoming assignments.
More information about generational differences