Seven generational paradigms

I’m not a big fan of categorizing people by their age and putting a label on them. Years ago I wrote a blog about “Generation Why” – claiming that I was very much a part of the “generation that questions everything”.

I shared recently about my discovery of Pinterest – and how Facebook and Twitter have changed the interface to become more visual. ‘A picture saves a thousand words’… I begin to wonder what the children born this century will experience – how they will communication… perhaps we have only touched the surface in terms of how we connect to others.

One thing that is assured is that technology will continue to be driven by human desires and changing community needs.

I attended a session called ‘De-coding the Next Generation’ by Michael McQueen last week.

I am sceptical when it comes to generalizing about “generational differences”. However, Michael did a good job at setting the scene and sharing his seven paradigm shifts. He told us that people born after 1980 are likely to see the following areas differently than those born before the ‘80s.

1. The concept of truth

Truth is seen as fluid: Often referred to as ‘my truth’ i.e. there are different points of view or versions. The word ‘should’ is seen as a judgment and the best way to tell something is to show that it works – and this can be done through story telling.

2. Assumption of respect

Respect is not automatically based on title or position. It is very important, however, it must be earned and it also must be mutual. “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.”

3. Communication

Language has become far more about function than form – ‘Why use 179 letters when you could use just 79?’ Interestingly OMG and LOL have now been entered into the Oxford Dictionary. Language has always evolved. It is just moving faster than it ever has before. ROFL (Rolling on floor laughing).

4. The value of patience

Life is meant to be easy, convenient and entertaining. Things do not come to those that wait – they come to those who ask. The downside of this is that often if things do not come easily then it could be considered that something is ‘wrong’.

5. The need for affirmation

Nowhere more is this the case than in China in the wake of the one child policy – in China it is referred to as the ‘Little Emperor’ generation. The need for validation and recognition is paramount.

I note that the recognition programs that RedBalloon designs say that all recognition must be immediate and regular – and Gallup claims that people have forgotten any acknowledgement within seven days. Based on this paradigm shift, I would argue the younger the employee, the more recognition they will need before they will consider giving their discretionary effort.

6. The future

Most young people don’t have a five-day plan let alone a five-year plan (argh! my teenagers drive me spare as I try to work out what the plans are for the weekend). They want to leave their options open until the last minute. There may be no future, so they think living for the moment is paramount.

7. Work ethic

Laziness is not a generational difference – there are lazy people of all ages. People born after 1980 just have different priorities. Friends and leisure are important in the balance of life and as such become a priority. Having a sense of purpose and understanding why something is to be done is important.

Subsequent generations are a product of the previous one and I am fascinated to see that American journalist and columnist Lenore Skenazy has founded a movement – which she has dubbed Freerange kids – to encourage greater freedom for children.

But there might well be a whole other blog in that. Perhaps we have been overly protective of our children and that has influenced the generational paradigms.

In the meantime – no matter what your age – society will continue to change. Our community will morph and evolve. You cannot fight it. You may as well get with the program and be part of the change.

Who did you recognise in your workplace today – young or old – and how great did it feel?

Naomi Simson is considered one of Australia’s ‘Best Bosses’. She is an employee engagement advocate and practices what she preaches in her own business. RedBalloon has been named as one of only six Hewitt Best Employers in Australia and New Zealand for 2009 and awarded an engagement scorecard of over 90% two years in a row – the average in Australian businesses is 55%. RedBalloon has also been nominated by BRW as being in the top 10 Best Places to Work in Australia behind the likes of Google. One of Australia’s outstanding female entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a passionate speaker inspiring people on employer branding, engagement and reward and recognition. Naomi writes a blog and is a published author – and has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded –


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments