Elisabeth Kelan explains how HR professionals could tap into generational similarities instead of differences
Age diversity is at the top of the agenda for many HR professionals, and responding to generational changes is a crucial issue for attracting and retaining the best talent. Much has been written about Generations X and Y but there is no universally accepted definition of who belongs to which generation.
Put simply, Gen Y refers to those under 30 while Gen X includes people over 30. While the generation game is a popular topic in the media, there is a lack of academic research exploring this area.
The Lehman Brothers Centre for Women in Business, London Business School has launched a consortium to explore the issues surrounding Gen Y in greater detail. As a first step the consortium looked at what has been written on Gen Y and young professionals both from an academic and a practitioner perspective and compared this with assumptions about Gen X. The research includes in-depth interviews with young professionals.
The great divide? Generation X versus Y
One of the greatest differences between Gen X and Y seems to be what they want from work. Gen X is said to be enticed by freedom and independence while Gen Y is more money and lifestyle-oriented. Gen Y'ers are also supposed to be more individualistic and focused on their own interests. Gen X'ers get on with their jobs while Gen Y'ers are said to ask questions about the way certain things are done.
One of the central differences between the two generations relates to the use of technology. Forrester Research recently published a study that highlighted the generational differences in technology use. Gen Y'ers see technology as embedded in and integral to their life. They are constantly "on" and embrace new technologies for socialising and work. Gen X'ers, in contrast, mainly use technology for convenience purposes, such as online banking and shopping but it's not central to their social lives. The way technology is adopted relates a great deal to how people from these generations like to be managed. Generation X is generally happy with reg