Gen Y Enter Stage Left, Baby Boomers Exit Stage Right

Been a busy week, I was in L.A. (twice) helped many clients, and now am off to NYC today on Sunday in preparation for tomorrow’s Forrester Finance Forum. Aside from the hectic schedule, there are two major changes in my life: 1) My kid sister enters the workpace, 2) My parents contemplate retirement. Me? I’m in the middle, “Jeremiah-in-the-middle” as a young Gen Xer, experiencing it all unfold.

Gen Y Enter Stage Left
Last weekend, my kid sister (yes, the one who said she only uses email to communicate with old people like me) has graduated from college. 10 years my junior, she starts her first full time job in San Francisco. Already armed with a network connected to her on Facebook, Instant Messaging tools (and probably MySpace too), she enters the workforce connected to her new employers: customers, partners, and even competitors.

What they are on their profiles echos to their networks, and if they indicate they are employed (many do) then they are now representatives of the brand.

Companies have three choices when it comes to understanding this opportunity: 1) Do nothing. Most companies are unaware of these changes, or even if they are, they are unsure of the possibilities. 2) Shut it down. Some companies have locked Facebook, YouTube and other ‘time-wasters’ away from employees, but now with today’s pervasive mobile devices (iPHone, Blackberry, Nokia, Sidekick), there is no blocking it. 3) Make use of the opportunity. Employees, whether they realize it or not are the front line of the company, they can be support, they can be sales, or they can just be brand ambassadors. Check out this interview with me about the future of the outsourced Intranet from ZDnet, and how Serena Software encourages it’s employees to have a Facebook Friday.

These questions remain:

  • Do the once finite lines of the corporate firewall between work and personal start to fade?
  • Who is really an official spokesperson? Is there an unofficial spokesperson?
  • As Generation Y moves into the workforce, how will their communication habits change? How about ours? (I work with several talented ones)
  • Will Generation Y, who is accustomed to Facebook Applications, Google Docs, Rich internet application interfaces, and advanced web technology (all public) be shocked to find out how bad your enterprise software is?
  • How will companies adapt and changes their corporate policies to meet this change?
  • Baby Boomers Exit Stage Right
    Although still a few years away, my parents are considering retirement. They’ve accomplished a lot in their careers, both have been towards to the top of the food chains in their respective careers in Education and Medicine. These baby boomers (the largest generation America has ever seen) leave their companies and organizations, and often with the know-how, knowledge, and networks that we’ve relied on. In fact, many senior leadership at corporations are members of the large boomer generation.

    For example, at a previous company where I managed the intranet, I received stats from HR, in order to complete my user experience research. I found that 40% of the company (more than a third) of the employees were going to retire in the next 5-10 years, many in leadership positions. That was 3 years ago.

    These questions remain:

  • Are companies prepared for this mass exodus of experienced leaders?
  • How will they harvest the knowledge from these professionals? Once they leave, they are under no obligation to return it.
  • How will some companies have ‘soft-retirements’ allowing them to work part time or have access to their networks.
  • Will they leave a gaping hole in upper and mid management giving a gravity well to Gen X to quickly climb to leadership –some with questionable experience?
  • Solutions? Dennis McDonald left a link to an interesting social network created by Dow that ties retirees to the company.

    Comparing both generations, I often have heard from my parents generation about climbing the corporate ladder, getting a pension, and being lifers at companies. When I talk to the younger generation, they are at the stage of wanting to climb vertically, and they know the fastest way up is out –in just a few years. Without a doubt, we’ve changes ahead, it’ll be interesting to see how companies cultures and workstyle change.

    • no, no corporation is prepared to let them go.

      the pragmatists after the quick buck won the 90s.,
      they’ve been idiotic, watering company knowledge down.

      mass corporate suicide, as you can tell how well they market is doing.

      but is this really any surprise to you, Jeremiah ?

    • Hold on there, Jeremiah. I’m a boomer (barely).Don’t kick us off stage yet.

      You do post some valid questions. Boomers have been a generation wanting their eternal youth. I think you will see them trying to stay in the work place as long as possible, especially the younger half of the generation.

      Yesterday, my wife and I heard “When I’m 64” by the Beatles while we were driving. We thought, that doesn’t sound so old. (McCartney’s now 66, by the way)

    • I do see the gravity well for upward movement occurring, however, I think that rather than lack of experience, this gives an opportunity to implement change. This may very well be the decade of innovation for big business.

    • Jay

      Some of my best friends are boomers, I’m not kicking you off the stage, in fact, I hope to see a ‘soft-retirement’ for those that want to leave, with strong digital and real life tethers to the rest of the company –we need you still.

    • Some companies such as Dow Chemical are making active attempts to retain and/or network with retiring workers and the expertise they possess:

    • While some things will change, it will be more because of the technology than the “generations”. People are still people, and as the “Y’s” get more responsibilities (families, mortgages, aging parents, saving for college, saving for retirement, etc….) they will be no different that other middle aged folks. Look at the boomers, very idealistic in the 1960s and 1970s, now they are the establishment.

    • You made me ponder which segment I’m in! So I’m one of the oldest Gen X’ers, but I have the traditional sense of work of the boomers. That explains why it was such a shock to realize that people are changing jobs every 2 years. My 5 year ‘careers’ felt right.

      Now changing jobs after a 6 mo stint (1.5 yr assoc with a company) required a radical change of my perspective. But it will help me understand all of these younger people that I’m working with. No wonder I feel like I’m on the ‘mature’ end. 🙂
      What I’m impressed with is that the Gen Y’s are always appreciative of assistance. And they’re not shy about asking for it! (My daughter is a Gen Y)

    • Dennis, you’ve always got great links, I updated the post.

      Thom Singer, my Uncle, who self admittedly was a hippie (then and now) is one of the public leaders of Monterey county. He and my Aunt were excited to see the impacts of social media, esp as it relates to being anti-establishment.

    • Connie you’re always moving on doing interesting stuff.

    • The questions this raise for me are:

      1. What can we Gen X and older learn from Gen Y and Millennials? In terms of social media?

      2. What assumptions do we have about Gen Y and Millennials that are wrong but we don’t know it?

      3. What do we have to teach in order to get the most out of our Gen Y and Millennial people?

      Cool post.

    • Elliot

      What I’ve learned about Generation Y is that because they are digital natives, they know how to learn. They can figure it out on their own, you just need to provide them direction and let them bump into a few walls to get experience.

    • Jeremiah, thanks very much for including my link in your article.

      As someone who has always been involved in information technology research, development, or consulting, I personally have always found “generational generalizations” to be somewhat limiting.

      The good thing about today’s technology environment is how second nature its use has become. But that hasn’t extended to how technology is managed, which has lagged behind.

      One question is, how much do people need to understand technology in order to manage its use? In the old days (you know, last week) we had “IT departments,” but as technology and its use has become much more pervasive, the distinction between managing and using technology has become much more fuzzy.

      I wonder if it is possible to really effectively manage technology without understanding how it operates? This might be one of the weaknesses of “younger generations” who take technology for granted without understanding the basics of technology. They’re very fast at adopting and putting technology to use, but does that mean they know enough to make informed decisions about how it should be used and managed economically and effectively in an organization? Or am I over-generalizing based on my own limited experience?

    • @Jeremiah: As someone who is Gen Y and workers for a professional service firm that helps clients recruit talent on a national & international bases,… we’ve been talking about the boomber retirement for a while with clients.

      Most are looking to have some people try and take part-time hours as they look to off-set the mass outing of people for retirement. Others are looking to have them mentor the younger employees and share what they know now as people get to retire in the next 5 – 10 years. The funny thing is I agree we’ve known about this for a while and should have done more sooner.

      @Elliot Most of my management are Gen Xers (late 30s) and know that we as Gen Yer, can take care of business. If you show you can handle responsibility and management, you’ll get it. To answer your questions:

      1. To embrace sharing your knowledge with the world and knowing that it’s only going to help your business grow, not hurt it.

      2. We don’t all think we can be management in 5 years as well as thinking that we’ll just get there if we do base amount of work. We want creative and challenging work.

      3. Depends on who you work for. Our company is more of a marketing communication company but I think the basics of business never hurt anyone. You show us how you run your business and we’ll show you how to run it twice as fast… being efficient is what a lot of my peers and I try to achieve at work. Not working harder but smarter, so we’ve more free time and a life outside of work.

    • Great food for thought. As someone who works with corporate execs, I am also wondering if Gen Y will change the way our work week looks, the number of hours we work and the time of day we work. I don’t believe that the 9-15 (or 7-7 that many boomers work) is the most efficient way to work, so this will be interesting to watch.

    • @Connie – Your right about the Gen Y’s being appreciative of assistance and not shy about asking for it.

      I think the Gen Y’s are inspired by people who do great things and achieve great things, as opposed to where people are placed on the company ladder.

      I appreciate information from Tom Peters, I loved a video I saw of Zig Ziglar, but I also enjoy reading Loic Le Meur, Jeff Pulver and Chris Brogan all the way to people who are my age (22).

      Before the internet was mainstream, we would have had to take a brave pill to ask for advice from excellent business owners, now we can drop you an email or a tweet, we have nothing to lose.

      What I see thats diffferent is that if you help Gen Y, they are far more inclined to helps others out, that sounds like a cool community to be in.

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    • I attempted to answer some of the questions about Gen Y, from the perspective of someone of that generation in the workplace about a year…

    • I’m a 45-year old boomer, and I’m sure as hell nowhere near ready to exit stage right. I don’t, in fact feel like part of the boomer generation. I always thought those of us born between 1960-64 were kind of shoved into that generation because no one knew what to do with us…

    • Jeremiah, Great post as always. As a baby boomer, I am hearing and seeing so many of my friends realize retirement is not an option either due to need to support kids and parents or they want to stay alive and connected. I know that the workplace is changing as the Millenials enter the force in full. I have two teenage boys; 19,17 and they will be so different than my generation in the workplace–much more connected on a 24/7 basis, not patient, not as flexible as our generation had to be, and more accepting of women. I want to remain connected to all of them somehow as i do believe that once you disconnect from the workplace and enter “just the world of retirement” your energy starts to die even IF you stay connected through community colleges, etc.

    • Dear Jeremiah (and fans),

      [First off congrats to your sister! I have been looking for jobs since December and even with a Master’s I am still in the job hunt trench.]

      As a 25 year old who uses facebook, twitter, etc to form the web of life and, actually met more people online that later became “real life” friends, I have some perspective to share:

      1) “Old” companies are simply not going to adapt and adopt this idea of allowing facebook. It is simply not in the “employee delivery” / value chain.

      2) Companies are too freaked out when as you describe it “lines blur” and how do you as a company ACCEPT the fact that people have a life, friends and can have a drink and post a picture like that, I mean, we are not in the closet. I know people who have 2 facebook profiles because of this, their rationale? keep one for “professional use” and keep another for their TRUE friends.

      Is this person in the closet? S/He doesn’t think so.

      Other friend just simply is freaked out about profiles and his facebook profile is “in the closet”. Untags himself from pictures, no public listing, no notes, no nothing. S/He is in the facebook closet.

      Finally, a third friend tries to perceive the social networking garden (each site being a flower / or a weed by the perception of a company!) and uses LinkedIN as the professional one. It’s the third line in his business card. (no phone number anymore, replaced by a skype id; uses facebook to stay in touch with friends and post pictures (doesn’t quite use mySpace as “that is for high school kids”.

      3) Companies get worried about brand hijacking. Therefore why even allow it?

      Instead of embracing a whole new generation of clients and market that simply just might altogether be entrepreneurial enough (and find venture capital baby boomers that BELIEVE in them and understand its their TIME now) and then you have “small companies” like Google popping up.

      4) Our generation will massively extinct corporations as they exist today. A new global horizontal economy is already here. Now.

      Models of collaboration are exceedingly “in the cloud”. You can see how platforms like salesforce are doing this already. And Apple is catching on quickly with ‘MobileMe”.

      5) In the USA Sen. Obama “gets it” …. see how they use My.BO and use this as their unprecedented backbone grassroots effort. (He did get so far over $100M usd through his site and since launching the “declaration of independence of a broken system” he had to update in less than 24 hours his fundraising original goal of 50,000 donors to 75,000 (which he should again pass by this coming week!)

      I think for a company like yours, and your turf specially, it would be interesting to see how many silver surfers began using computers and the internet as a civic engagement tool as a result of MyBO. (My Barack Obama Networking tool).

      6) The biggest mistake that companies can do right now is not embrace this generation. We will pay for their social security benefits. Out of respect: don’t bite the hand that will feed you.

      7) TO answer your question: “How will their communication habits change?”

      In February of 2007 I created a facebook group for a study abroad program that was 16 weeks long and was based on a cruise ship by Royal Caribbean.

      Without being in contact officially with the administrators at Royal or at TheScholar Ship (the program), I began creating a network of prospective participants (students, faculty and staff). I did not know anyone that would be going and slowly and steadily the group gathered about 85% of the participants 2 months before embarkation.

      As a community manager what was achieved?

      – About 85% early networking. Not only a screen name, but understand, we were going to live with each other for 4 long monts. At SEA. Only seeing each other and a couple of turtles and whales from time to time.

      – Participants got to know their roomates early.

      – Programmed arrival to port of embarkation together (I flew to New York where we had group tickets to Greece and had already arranged a hostel to stay at. Other met in Atlanta, England, Amsterdam, China)…In the end 7 rooms in the hostel were booked in advance by people that did not know each other, had only “met” on the “internets” and where going to be meeting for the first time in Athens.

      – Shared advice on planned purchases for cellphones, cameras, computers ahead (what worked in each port of call???)

      – People bought unlocked quad band cellphones and at every port of call you’ll simply get a cheap SIM Card and immediately update on facebook to the group your new phone for the week so that, while in port, we would still be connected and catch up. This was also helpful on many emergencies.

      – Created almost a dozen student organizations as we got to know each other in facebook and this allowed for:

      a) International Movie NIghts: You can only bring 20kg (45lb) into the ship. It is then crucial to pack as efficient as possible. People knew what each other was bringing as for not having duplicate items on the ship.

      b) Created a Model of United Nations Group and planned for MUN 3 months before embarkation and 6 months before the model itself. (happened in the rough seas between Australia and China).

      c) Organized an Oxfam Hunger Banquet simulation; Faith based groups, activities.

      d) Several Seminars, workshops, etc where organized in advance. Even theater plays. (remember we had to bring EVERYTHING with us because we didn’t have internet access and we couldn’t leave the ship to go get a book. We were all in the same boat, quite literally.

      e) Planning of independent travel at the ports of call.

      f) many many more things.

      In many ways we created the community and fully knew each other long before meeting. This is fascinating to me still today. My biggest fear was to be in Greece 3 days before embarkation all jet lagged and not know anyone. This didn’t happen. I arrived with other 7 people, we met in the famous Athens Studios and took advantage of the power of the network to make the best of the first days.

      I created NautiCast, a Higher Education podcast now available in iTunes U which has a broad array of global topics. This had never been done before.

      We formed Visionary Produktions (a media conglomerate of bloggers, podcasters, photographers, writers, film and other media) to provide workshops and small seminars for students to improve their photo techniques as well as video editing. For example, I gave several iLife workshops while another friend gave Aperture workshops and other friend Final Cut workshops.

      A fitness group was also started, there were no official trainers but a student had a certification and they started this by the power of the groundswell. Same thing happened with faith groups, student government, etc.

      Our combined languages and dialect pool was at over 60 and 55 nationalities. Extremely good when you travel to over 9 countries and need advice on what to do in that week to make the best of the experience.

      Living at Sea was unique in many many ways. For once: our internet was worse than dial-up speed. You couldn’t do online banking (a BIG problem for a lot of people) as the lag of time was slow enough that the servers wouldn’t allow a secure connection.

      We learned to quickly use the mobile versions of sites to access email (google was the fastest, while MSN was the slowest). In fact, facebook was the fastest way to send messages to email addresses (at the time they had just implemented this feature!).

      We had to learn to optimize uploads of pictures and blogs. For facebook we had to set a max resolution per picture of 320×240 each. Otherwise it could take almost ONE HOUR to upload 14 pictures. (especially bad when the internet minute is almost a dollar).

      After every port we had a “hit me with your best shot” night. Which was a slideshow night after dinner and from the best pictures we voted on them via the intranet (we had open source tools available like Zimbra, moodle for the classes and wikipedia).

      With the best pictures voted upon (through the intranet) , we created a hard bound book that represented our voyage as an inaugural class. This book was created on the ship and sent to a publisher in Hong Kong to print just in time for debarkation in Christmas Eve (we actually had to shut down internet access for the whole ship to transfer a few MB of data). The books actually arrived at the gang way exactly at the time that we docked. We all participated on the amount of pages / for cost calculation and no profit was made of it. We ordered enough copies per person to offset this.

      By the end of the voyage we had “converted” baby boomers (faculty mostly) and had them join facebook too.

      8) After the voyage I came back with so many great ideas. Unplugging yourself from the internet was hard at first, but then it opens your mind to new forms of collaboration and sharing of information that otherwise would not have happened.

      My biggest worry now is that, while the internet is great and google docs and online apps are good, there is a fundamental lesson that I got while on the ship, and that is the ability to be off the grid.

      The reality is that 5 billion people live like this! Isn’t that a BIG opportunity???

      Cloud computing is not the future, but the present. How can we jump into the “web 3.0” and continue the rift of the digital divide???

      Many of us have begun global NPOs and projects all over the world. Social networking is neither a commodity nor a tool, but a full fledged platform and operating system to coordinate our efforts. We have adapted the necessary tools and are positioned to use even those from companies like salesforce+google apps.

      We live around the clock and the projects move incredibly fast this way. It is not globalization, but glocalization. We don’t “outsource” because the world is our tent.

      Finally, whilst still unemployed, I hope this brings some perspective.

      – arturo

    • As a Gen Y’er myself, I am very curious to see how my generation impact unfolds on corporate america, especially at major companies like P&G where I work. Every day I see the generational differences butting heads. For instance, most Boomer and Gen X upper management expect employees to happily put in 2 – 4 year assignments. They dont recognize that Gen Y is use to a world that is constantly changing and the thought of doing the same thing for 3 years scares the hell out of them. Companies that want employee loyalty are going to have to embrace the need for constant change that Gen Y demands. This will come in the way of tools used (social networks, mobile, etc), hours worked, benefits and job assignments. The change wont be easy…but it will be necessary.

    • As one of those baby boomers, I think it’s a little premature to start writing off 76 million people. The youngest baby boomers are still only 43 or so, meaning they have 20 more years before they even start retirement–and many will work for several years long. The days of retiring at 62 and going off and play golf are long over anyhow–many of us will work as consultants for years longer if we choose. Even within the baby boomer set, there’s a huge difference–there’s little similarity between the older and the younger Boomers;the older ones may have bought into the job for life and pension plan you mentioned,while the younger ones are as skeptical as you. This group may have more in common with Generation X than the older Boomers. So we have a little time and I think this last group in particular will eventually wake up and start embracing the generation behind them. Most of the corporate managers we work with (like marketing VPs)are late Xers or Boomers. While their views of work and social media are very different than the new generation, they know they must open up to new people and ideas. Meanwhile, it’s great that the new iPhone-toting generation is more connected, Internet savvy and digital oriented, but they’ll need to learn management and other skills if they’re to advance and grow professionally in the business world–in other words, just what the rest of us had to do…The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    • José Luis

      All generations attitudes will merge as we learn from each other.

      Tree/five years in a starting position seems to be way too much, but at some point you must commit to something to be able to learn beyond the “right here, right now”.

      I’ve read recently that every 4 months (of real time), one month is added to life expectancy. And the trend is accellerating. It will get to the point where life expectancy grows faster than real time passes by (is a technological process that is becoming exponential).

      This will require that we continue to work past 65, otherwise no retirement plans (personal or state mandated) will be able to keep up. Also must be considered the need of feeling one-self productive for 50 or more years after retirement.

      All generations will meet up in the workplace. Those who adapt will progress. “adapt” to be understood as “both ways” (boomers learning from y-ers and y-ers learning from boomers).

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    • Christopher Coulter

      be shocked to find out how bad your enterprise software is?

      Oh so this ERP thing here can unite Accounting, Factory Production and HR with the Executive command, and kick out reports that help run and forecast the future, and do number crunching on the level that could run a small European country, but geeeee whiz, it can’t do any cool Web 2.0 social software somersault tricks and it has no IM, it, like, totally, like, gag me with a spoon, like, geeesh, like, I mean, like, sucks. Like, pheeeeew.

      Gen Y, so far, has yet to prove anything more than missing a few chromosomes. At least it means the Yuppie Hippie Scum are riding off into the sunset or to the nearest Whole Foods, in a Beemer, no doubt.

      The Breakdown

      Greatest – Ended the War, Remade Modern Society. Give me the 2 story Ranch. But not the greatest parents.

      Boomers – Spoiled Brat offspring. Peace, Love and Understanding, well, if you think and act like us, but then never mind, I’ll take a condo, Fleetwood Mac CDs and everything material the world can provide, including Starbucks coupons, even if it means Accounting tricks de-jour, heck I deserve it.

      Gen X – Hey, yo, knock knock, this thing on? No anti-establishment bubbles here, all hail Reagan. I want a piece of that American Dream Pie, like yesterday.

      Gen Y – Huh? What? Books? Education? What are those? Cell phone, internet is all I need. What? Did you say something? (pops the white headphones out of ears).

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    • If it’s one thing we X’ers have learned is that old idea of unwavering company loyalty doesn’t matter in the end. We’ve grown up watching massive layoffs and witnessing a slew of what I call “one-skilled wonders” unable to get back on their feet because all they know is what they did at GM, or Ford, or IBM or Company Z. I’m not saying they did anything wrong because that’s what life was, and that model worked. The smartest boomers I’ve worked with throughout my journalism career embraced change and opted to learn new skills and most importantly, viewed the X’ers as sources of knowledge as opposed to grunts who need to earn their keep. As an X…it behooves me to befriend those Y’s like your younger sister and learn what they have to teach me. I’ve often felt that many boomers carried an amazing amount of arrogance and that just doesn’t bode well today.

    • Jeremiah,

      I admire your knack to compose thought provoking blog posts similar to the recently departed Tim Russert’s penchant to probe and inquire.

      How about addressing “Net-glish Enter Stage Left, English Verbal and Written Skills Exit Stage Right”?

      Your post illuminates the digital and generational gulf. Yet, I have casually observed the divide to be most evident across resumes, blog posts, comments, e-mails, tweets, etc.

      Alas, I remind myself to be a positive attitude and adopt the position of learning a new language since we need each other to conduct business.

      I recall society’s reaction to Ebonics several years ago. It will be revealing to see how history evaluates how we understand each other amidst the Internet inspired communications landscape.

      Class of 1957

    • Even more complicated is this gaping problem in respect of the former socialist economies…where we have people who worked in lifelong positions — absent of the profit principle — and where young Gen Y’ers (and even some GenXers, who go by the name of 1970’s “Husakovy deti” = Husak’s Children — you can find out all about these sorts of kids from wikipedia if you’re in the mood for some extra-curricular) aren’t necessarily interested in taking up their places because the desire to want to work in more lucrative positions is more alluring. Will there be any tram drivers left? Will there be any scientific types? People who will want to manage the nation’s nuclear facilities (and we have two), for example? This is also a massive concern for this nation.

      With consumerism flooding the channel here on a humungous non-stop scale (which I love, ps), the recovery has been slow — and the pundits are not necessarily saying that this is seriously affecting the macroeconomy of the Czech Republic (and I’m sure the situation is precisely the same in the case of other post-Communist countries). There are other experts who are asking HOW this can remain the case…

      Great post, J. Very timely.

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    • A lot of my students who post questionable content online feel entitled to act like idiots AND get jobs. There are a few assumptions at place – many of them wrong.


      1. I don’t want to work for the kind of employer who would judge me based on my drunken videos.

      FACT: Any employer is going will regard questionable behaviour in relation to you as a risk or asset. Their question is not one of morality but pragmatism: “How can I trust you with responsibility for my clients and our accounts when you clearly do not possess sound judgment?”

      2. I am different/creative/interesting/individual – I can get away with things others cannot

      FACT: In addition to your outlandish behaviour, you’d better have some very special insights, experience or talent to support your value to an employer. Being simply interesting, cool or fun means zero to an employer who is hiring you to DO A JOB.

      3. If Scoble/Loic/Loren Feldman (etc) can get away with it, so can I!

      FACT: Genuinely famous people (as opposed to overnight microcelebrities) are generally famous because they have done or created something that has value to others. They CAN get away with more because they are considered proven commodities. We are willing to forgive them their indescrestions because they are HOLDERS OF POWER. Ordinary people – in particular, Gen Y – have not yet proven their value to corporations. All of this talk of their insights as early adopters is a lot of hot air if it cannot be translated into meaningful results.

      It’s one thing to collect 10000 friends based on your daily exhibitionism, beer goggles and sexual provocation. It’s quite another to attract the same numbers for a legitimate product or company via legitimate behaviours.

      Before we start trumpeting how Gen Y “gets it” we ought to take a very serious look at all the things they are NOT getting. I know, I teach them every week.

      Some of them will be assets. Quite a few of them liabilities.

      It’s up to ALL OF YOU to teach them what works and what doesn’t. You are their examples.

    • Christopher Coulter

      Agree with Melanie…

      Being “different/creative/interesting” only works if you become vital to the company via “special insights, experience or talents”…but most jobs out there, never let you even stretch out, you are just a warm-body performing a robotic duty, daily churn, the everyday-existence icy-cold futility of it all. Gen Y be just carelessly hopeful and uneducatedly optimistic, that will change soon enough.

      famous because they have done or created something that has value to others

      In a limited sense, but people have always been famous on account of lineage/pedigree, position, attention-seeking controversy or outrageousness — there be a million reasons, talent is only but one.

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    • Jeremiah,

      I have a couple thoughts to add to an interesting entry and comments.

      Millennials entering the workforce will probably change the work world more subtly than directly. Facebook and Twitter and the like are unlikely to change existing businesses as much as they’ll change how and why people leave companies. Being a massively connected and communicative generation, it is unlikely that Millennials will quietly suffer in unrewarding jobs. They won’t change the jobs, they’ll just leave and go to better positions. Talent will shift to the most deserving and engaging companies. Also, Millennials will probably know far more about companies before they go work their, simply because they have friends and contacts they can easily reach through Facebook to give them the inside scoop. How many will take advantage of these opportunities is always an unknown.

      What is more likely to appear early, will be companies that can take advantage of new advertising channels and leverage that for success. For example, please see the announcement today between Facebook and Visa.

      Its in these, probably much smaller and more dynamic companies, where the skills and talents of Millennials will have an effect and new business models will be developed.

      What will seen in more mature businesses will be the lack of effect. New Millennial skills won’t be added. What will also be difficult to see is that over the next ten to thirty years, the erosion of Baby Boomer skills and talent.

    • It’s always troubling for me to read that Gen-Y is 1979 and above… which puts me out of that group 🙁 But I’m trying to catch up with the young people…

      @ Connie – you’ll always be Gen-Y for me 🙂

    • margy

      Your blog entry is days old, so you probably won’t see my post here, but it’s taken me days to calm down from your post to sputter anything back. (Jerimiah, you made me mad!) I’m a Boomer but in no way ready (or financially able) to exit any stage. When did Boomer (hate that term, btw) become a pseudonym for old fogey anyway? Here’s how Boomers described ourselves to each other in an iconic (for the time) book-cum-manifesto, “The Apartment Book,” dated 1979. Sounds a little bit like the optimistic twenty-something rhetoric of 2008. “Through most of the seventies [we] struggled to invent and interpret a way of life that did not follow the old patterns. For the first time, because of the radical changes of the sixties, young people were not automatically following their parents’ paths to marriage, children and a house in the suburbs. Rather, they were searching, alone or in paris or in groups for a place to live that would express their own values. The community of young people who were, by God, going to live their own brand of life — even if they weren’t so sure what it was yet. Because we come from various persuasions and backgrounds, we approach our subject matter with new eyes. The only discipline is a shared commitment to making real ideas happen, without …hype or the tyranny of status names.”

      I still believe that. And I bet if you went back further and checked on contemporaneous advertising and magazines targeting young college graduates of the early 1950’s post-war generation just entering the workplace, you’d again find that same open-eyed wonder at the opportunities before them.

      The ready-for-anything attitude you describe can’t be pigeonholed into tired marketing classifications like Gen X or Gen Y. It doesn’t come and go like actors on a stage or styles in fashion. It’s something that, if we’re lucky, attacks us early and stays with us throughout our lives.

    • I agree with Margy’s “open-eyed wonder” when it comes to new generations. Our society tends to glorify the young, the new, and then they too, are brought into the fold, and it starts over again. I also agree that many of the labels (boomer, X, Y gen) blind us to reality. I know boomers on the cutting edge of social media and other ideas, and of course,they have the wisdom that comes with being around for awhile. Bottom line, the new generation will eventually be morphed into our business world, and they will bring new ideas and energy–which is always needed. But they will also be forced to fall into line, like everyone before, falling just as short of a revolution as their boomer predecessors did.

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    • Steve Furman

      If you are a boomer and want to exit, feel free. I’m a a boomer, an older boomer according to the Forrester definition, but have no intention of ever exiting, until my body wears out. Companies need the older, wiser talent, but haven’t exactly figured out how to retain them. They will. I’m on my third career and plan on having at least two more. I’m formally educated in psychology and sociology and the growth of social media is exactly what I have trained for my entire career.

      I love working with Gen X and Gen Y. They are so smart and motivated and are naturals with technology. I make it a rule to have X’s and Y’s on my team. I learn so much from them and they look toward me to teach them what i know.

      It’s not one generation showing the door to an older generation anymore. That’s so last century. Our society has evolved beyond that.

    • Steve

      It was good meeting you, you’ve more energy than I do, so I don’t think you’ll be wearing out anytime soon.

    • suze


      I am a gen-xer. I *love* the gen y group. They immediately “get” what I’m talking about. They are hyper-connected and understand the value of social media tools.

      While there are exceptions, my gen x and baby boom colleagues are not nearly as socially savvy. It is challenging to convey the value of social media to someone who has never used RSS, Google docs, and in some cases, even Flickr.

      There are definately exceptions in every group, but the vast majority of gen y is already up the learning curve, and they are a pleasure to work with. Give them a few years to build their management wisdom and they will be a force to be reckoned with.

    • ?

      Why would my generation ever sit in a cubicle?

      As a generation Y’er I ask, what is it you want me to do and how much will you pay for the said task?

      If you want me to sit through group training you are out of your mind. Just give me the link and I’ll figure it out.

      I believe Gen Y is working under policies created by boomers that we aren’t truly vested in cuz they’re AB. See, we have the skills but we want to change things. So working in the virtual realm frees up the time to pursue new knowledge and ways of doing things.

      The US is in need of an attitude adjustment. The community and state structure deserve the real dedication from this group and I believe they can process office work with one hand typing while the other makes the difference.

      To the intelligent boomers,

      I respect what you know. I just don’t want to walk into your building man

      1. Cubicles make me claustrophobic
      2. You don’t pay me enough to pay for transportation to get to where you are. I’d rather be an affiliate for a hydro engine company than pay $50 dollars to get stuck in traffic.
      3. I can’t afford a business wardrobe because tuition was so high that I tape my pants together.
      4. There’s more up to date software on my computer than on your company computers and I already have more networking connections


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    • Jae

      ^Erica, as a fellow ‘Generation Y’er’, or whatever, have to say you nailed it!

      My generation, aka Generation We, I’d say is more ‘collectivist’. We network, we unite, and through social networking sites, with persons from all over the world, from different classes, races, and so on. No generation before us has done that. We’re smart, and like Erica said, we want a much-needed cultural shift (‘attitude adjustment’), which we’ll hopefully bring about.

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