James’s recent blog has stimulated much discussion over the dinner table chez Evans, in part because my wife and I have two grown up Gen Y children of our own but also because we have been reflecting personally on how much the world had changed since we were young baby boomers. (We were born in the very late 1950s). Over several meals and bottles we came to the conclusion that the world was unrecognisable to that which we had grown up in, thank goodness, and vastly different to that which we had anticipated we would live in when we left school. Like James and Generation Y we were led to expect a life of increasing leisure with a 3 day working week and retirement at 55. Summarising on our thoughts for this blog we came to the view that we baby boomers are far more adaptable than Gen Y and Z may give us credit for. Why? Well we have lived through four revolutions in society.
The first of those revolutions was the “cultural revolution” of the 1960s and 70s which was very much about social attitudes to such things as race, religion, sex and women. Many of the laws and social norms we take for granted now can be traced back to the period between the rise of the Beatles in the mid 60s and the decline of Punk at the end of the 70s and were very much driven by young baby boomers, just look at the news footage of the period.
The biggest changes to our life outcomes however came with the “economic revolution” during the 1980s and early 90s. Our working life expectations were swept away by the resultant rapid changes in the work place. Ian has referred a number of times in his blogs to the flattening of management structures and the resulting lack of career ladders within organisations, a process that started back in this period with baby boomers being the main victims. (It may be this that makes us more reluctant to relinquish control than anything else so just bear that in mind Gen Y.)
One of the topics that came up over a family meal was key events in our lifetimes. For my son that started with his arrival in the world a few days before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the ensuing “political revolution” which lasted until 2003 and the second Gulf war. Along the way it took in the collapse of communism, the fall of apartheid, devolution here in the UK and the opening up of China. The political landscape is virtually unrecognisable from that of 1989 let alone 1959.
The final revolution we concluded was the “communications revolution”, one we are very much in the middle of. While Gen’s Y and Z are likely to be the biggest beneficiaries, it is also a product of the baby boom generation like the “cultural revolution” we started with. It can be readily traced back to the days of Glam rock and flared trousers when fellow boomers Gates and Jobs started work back in 1970s. We have had to learn radically new skills, ideas and concepts thorough out our working lives as computers have made their way into every aspect of our work, rest and play.
All the above falls very much into the generalisation trap that James highlighted so neatly in his blog I know. We can all for example, I am sure, think of baby boomers that the cultural revolution seems to have passed by.
Here at Chiumento we regularly support people who have worked in the same place for 20, 30 or more years and progressed their way up a career ladder as they did so. Yet no two are the same today in terms of life and career motivations and aspirations. Life’s not that simple. Generalisation is something we try very hard to avoid at Chiumento as we see each client, candidate or delegate as an individual not a group.
So what would I say to Gen Y? Many things actually but the most important are probably
- Be prepared for change as the future will never be as you think it will be.
- Sometimes the answer to the question “why?” is “that is just the way things are”. You can’t change the laws of physics even if you’d like to or think you should be able to.
Irrespective of our age and outlook on life, we all need to collaborate to survive and progress. Valuing difference makes that so much easier.
Corporate Services Director