Much ado about nothing: generational change

by 27 Nov 2007

By Craig Donaldson

There has been much made of the difference in generations and how this impacts the workplace. There have also been numerous surveys highlighting these differences and extrapolating on what this means for companies and managers.

There is probably something to all of this hoo-ha, but in reality this isn’t something the world hasn’t seen before. As Paul Stock’s article “Generation Y is not a mutation” on the left reports, there have always been differences in the generations.

Younger people don’t always have the responsibilities of older people, so there will naturally be differences in their views and how they approach life and work. As Jim Bright, professor of career education and development at ACU National, notes in the story, there has also been much research oversimplifying the issue.

What is unique about the current generational debate is the cumulative demographic and other forces that are converging on the workplace. Between the skills shortage, ageing population and other factors such as globalisation, the hunt for talent is becoming increasingly competitive and employers are becoming more sensitive to the needs of talented young workers in the hope of snaring them.

Between an increasingly connected world and the prevalence of technology, the younger generation are also becoming more savvy about the employment marketplace and thinking more seriously about potential employers. As our story “Keys to attracting graduates revealed” on page 5 notes, the reputation of a company is the single most important factor for graduates when considering potential employers. Furthermore, employers’ own websites are the most heavily used source of information for young candidates.

So the younger generation is still the younger generation – nothing has changed there. However, employers are increasingly having to pay more attention to them and put on their best face, rather than taking a laid-back approach and knowing the talent will come to them.