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Generation game changers

At the recent ICON conference held in Sydney, I was delighted to hear the fabulous Avril Henry 'Talking About Your Generation'. A diversity expert, one of AFR’s 100 Women of Influence, and current senior advisor to the Chief of Army, Avril is an engaging speaker who really gets people thinking and talking. For those of you who have not heard her speak, some of her messages are detailed below.

For the first time in history we have five generations at once in the workforce. Each generation is defined by the historical, political, economic and social events that occurred between when they were between 15 and 25 years of age. These events affect how generations react to technology, see change and what they are loyal to. The Veterans (born pre-1940) and Generation Z/post-millenials (born mid 1990s on), are the smallest groups in terms of numbers as they respectively retire from, and enter, the workforce. The differences between the major cohorts are worth exploring, because we need to understand their motivations to hire, train with and market to them.

  • Baby Boomers (born 1940–1960) are 30% of the workforce but 70% of management

  • command and control style of management

  • change-weary because they have seen too much, and change-wary because they are scared of failure

  • loyal to the organisation and see their career in ten-year cycles

  • their identity is tied to their profession, so retrenchment and retirement are challenging

  • have all the technology (because they see themselves as cool), but they don't understand it.

  • Generation X (born 1960–1980)

  • see their career in three to five-year cycles

  • are sceptical of authority because they have worked for bad leaders

  • sceptical of change and strategy because it has not worked

  • loyal to their career and a good leader

  • multi-skilled

  • see change as an opportunity to be part of the solution.

  • Generation Y (1980–1995) – 60% of tertiary graduates are female

  • want flexibility, training and development especially in soft skills

  • see their career in two-year cycles

  • keen on technology that works

  • want to be heard

  • first generation who will leave a job without having another one to go to 'I have a life'

  • believe in authenticity – they are the same person online, at home, at work

  • loyal to the team because they do not have extended family

  • committed to people, not organisations

  • want a positive workplace.

Interesting food for thought in employee attraction and retention programs.

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