The "Generation Gap" Revisited
The phrase "generation gap" first appeared in the Sixties, when the unprecedented social upheaval of that decade truly created a cultural chasm not just between generations, but even within families. These days "generation gap" sounds a bit old-fashioned, but I'd say that for the first time in forty years, the condition it describes is back.
Not, this time, in families--indeed, the children of the Baby Boomers are emotionally closer to their parents than any generation in history. (Also physically closer, when they move back home after college.)
Now the gap is in the workplace. No matter what kind of audience I speak to--from educators to lawyers to venture capitalists--and no matter what the topic is, during the Q&A session there's always some form of the question "What's up with these kids, anyway?"
The questions--well, more accurately, complaints--range from lack of social skills to attention span to reading ability to work ethic to that perennial favorite, "entitlement".
All of that makes for some lively discussion, but at the end I have to say: these are, in fact, your future employees and customers. And one way or another, you're going to have to learn to live with them.
That's why I'm looking forward to speaking at a conference this July at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins called "Why Hire Gen Y?". The agenda begins with the assumption that Gen Y--the Millennials--are not only an inevitable part of the workforce, but that they also will bring new strengths.
"What's up with those kids?" is a serious question that deserves a thoughtful response. And that's something that should particularly be appreciated by anyone who stood on the opposite side of the generation gap forty years ago.