Oh these kids today, with their Snaptwit and their Instant Grandma. Why back in my day… [insert your personal nostalgia here.]
So you’re a Boomer or a Gen Xer and you can’t make heads or tails of these crazy beings entering your workplace, or worse yet, buying your products. Your ability to make a living depends on blobs of protoplasm that have the entire world at their fingertips yet know less about it than any previous generation. You’re attempting to appeal to a generation that believes in the myth of “multi-tasking,” and consequently are essentially in permanent states of ADHD — without meds.
Well, you would at least have a window on the varied demographic layers of the marketplace if you’d have attended the last AMA luncheon, where speaker Jennifer Sutton of Bright + Co. in Greenville enlightened the gathered about the broad differences among American generations.
Consider these matrices of generations in the workplace, currently checking in at four – The Silent Generation (born 1922-1945), Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Gen Xers (born 1965-1982) and Millennials (born 1983-2002). (Source: Greg Hammill, Fairleigh Dickinson University Silberman College of Business)
I’m sure somewhere on the cloud exists the PowerPoint portion of Jennifer’s presentation, which I heartily recommend that you read, with the caveat that doing so yields a pale approximation of the living color version. For the full effect of the best presentations made to AMA, (shameless plug alert!) you need to come to the luncheons. Cleverly, they include lunch as well.
But I can give you a general sense of things.
These young’ins are crazy, and they’re taking over. Consider:
- They call people they’ve never met “friends,” and consequently like to work in big groups. Which you abhor.
- They’ve grown up sending sex chatter and salacious photos to their “friends,” and consequently have no moral filter. Hope they don’t do that to your customers.
- They don’t know the difference between news, comedy and advertising. Indeed, they don’t know what news even looks or sounds like. They think Buzzfeed is a news source. Unaware employees are sub-optimal.
- Sharing atomic details of their lives is their default mode. Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon already know more about them than their moms do. This could come back to haunt you, their employer.
- They think 140 characters is a long communication. Research shows that tweets under 100 characters have higher read rates.
- The first of them are already in their 30s. You’re stuck with them.
- And that’s nothing. There’s another generation coming up behind them. A generation that didn’t experience Sept. 11, has never seen a map, and is its own favorite photograph subject.
But before your brain explodes and litters the hallway with Saved By the Bell trivia, here’s the real consolation for employers, co-workers and marketers. We all grow up. Boomers – the rock ‘n’ rollers who never trusted anyone over 30, wore long hair and hated the government – now have children over 30, lost their hair and run the government. (Okay, maybe that last part isn’t quite so reassuring.) Gen-Xers, the first to grow up en masse without married parents, have learned how to mate and co-exist as poorly as the rest of us.
And now Millennials are showing signs that they may be human and competent to navigate workplace rules and marketplace heuristics. They are more civic-minded, more tolerant of differences and less jingoistic than the rest of us.
Hooray for them.
Still, just to be sure, hold their phone while they’re driving.