Five reasons why the Gen X – Gen Y divide is the next talent management bridge.

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Generation Y are not just younger versions of Generation X.

Generation X look at Generation Y and see themselves. Gen X don’t see themselves as old, so when they look at younger men and women they resonate with much of their youthful exuberance. The consequence is that Gen X see an idealized younger version of themselves in Gen Y and treat Gen Y as if they are just younger Gen X’ers.  In reality, Gen Y have been formed by a very different world to the world of Gen X’s youth.  Gen Y are their own unique demographic segment with a value system and worldview that is different from generations that are older than them.  For effective management and development of Gen Y talent the first thing Gen X needs to do is come to terms with the unique requirements and needs of this different generation.

Generation X are not the young kids they once were.

This is a logical extension of the first point. Generation X are now in mid-life, but they have always been the counter-culture whippersnappers adult society has been coming to terms with. Consequently, the penny hasn’t dropped for Gen X yet that they are now THE ADULTS and there is a new group that has picked up the “counter-culture whippersnapper” mantle. As long as Gen X retains the misperception that they are still the young ones in the work environment they will not be in a position to offer the wise leadership and development support needed for Gen Y [and soon Gen Z] talent.

We didn’t get the Baby Boomer – Generation X integration right.

The corporate world doesn’t have a great track record of adjusting to the needs of a new generation of talent.  The Silent – Boomer transition was relatively seamless so the talent management landscape was stable for most of the 20th century. In the 1990’s as Gen X moved into the workplace the landscape shifted. Talent management as a corporate discipline developed in response to the disruption Gen X brought. But, we didn’t get it right… Baby Boomers never quite settled with the different style and needs of Generation X and so Gen X clawed and battled their way into management and executive hierarchies. Looking around we may say that everything seems okay now, but in reality we are more in a state of détente than fully functional integration. We don’t have a process template from the Boomer – X’er experience that can be used as an effective reference point for the X’er – Y [Digital Natives] transition.

Generation X are now in management.

Gen X are in positions of leadership and authority. Most of the talent development and management processes will need to be signed off, approved, or paid for by a Gen X’er manager. Gen X have been agitating for leadership responsibility for 15 years. It is now here, but X’er need to be able to rise to a challenge that is nothing like they have expected or been prepared to meet.

Generation Y may actually have more in common with Baby Boomers than with Generation X.

Gen Y have been called the “Echo Boomers”. This is indicative of the reality that Gen Y have a closer resonance with values and worldview of Baby Boomers than with the younger Gen X’ers. In the corporate world, however, Gen Y are being managed by Gen X managers with Baby Boomer executives. The temptation for Boomers and Gen Y to side-step Gen X and follow the path of least resistance will be real.

Talent management as a discipline is still relatively new and has lessons to learn. We need to audit the Boomer – X’er process for lessons that can be applied today.  Then, we need to be prepared to learn new lessons unique to the challenges and opportunities of the present reality.

 

One thought on “Five reasons why the Gen X – Gen Y divide is the next talent management bridge.”

  1. Wilber says:

    Very interesting analysis

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