Jumping the generation gap

By David Eames

Attention Baby Boomers: your Generation X children are not the plaid-shirt-wearing wasters you thought, and your Generation Y workmates might not want your job after all.

New research by Australian consulting firm SHL indicates media-created stereotypes are not necessarily accurate and it could be unwise to make generational generalisations when hiring staff.

Generation Y members - generally the age comprising graduates and new workers - are often depicted as more career-driven than older groups, but less interested in job security.

They are also considered more optimistic, sociable and eager to take responsibility.

Meanwhile, Generation X members - the group weaned on Beavis & Butthead and the music of Kurt Cobain - are categorised as cynical, pessimistic and individualistic.

Gen X-ers are more independent and less loyal to their workplace, with life goals more important than job achievements.

Baby Boomers - those born between 1945 and 1964 - are considered loyal to their employers, idealistic, optimistic and driven.

But SHL researcher Ray Glennon says such stereotypes do not fit.

The company's testing compared results of occupational, personality and motivational questionnaires done by more than 3500 workers.

Dr Glennon told a breakfast meeting in Auckland yesterday that differences between the generations were "minimal" and there was likely to be more difference in personality between individuals.

"The difference between two people is always going to be bigger than generational differences."

Generation X and Y were "significantly more looking on the dark side" than their Boomer counterparts, who tended to view the world through "rose-tinted glasses".

And Generation X-ers are unlikely to be sitting around navel-gazing to their Nirvana albums.

The SHL study showed Gen X and Y members to be more ambitious than their Boomer colleagues.

While Xs and Ys were motivated by "progress", it did not necessarily have to be in their chosen careers.

Boomers were the group most interested in "power".

Generation X-ers tended to be less optimistic than Boomers, but more so than Y members. Boomers were also, generally, more cynical than their Y workmates, the SHL research showed.

"Most of the differences observed are better explained by age, rather than generational differences."

When it came to hiring, Dr Glennon said, the results highlighted the importance of "considering and objectively assessing each graduate individually, to capture top talent".

TRAITS ON A PLATE

How we see them

Generation Y (1982-2000)
Tech savvy, comfortable with change, driven and demanding, optimistic.

Generation X (1965-1981)
Cynical, pessimistic, individualist, no employer loyalty, self-sufficient, sceptical.

Baby Boomers (1945-1964)
Loyal, optimistic, idealistic, driven, keen to focus on consensus building.

How they are

Generation Y
Affiliative, high achieving, less career-focused, conscientious.

Generation X
Ambitious, motivated by progress, more optimistic than Boomers.

Boomers
More power-focused, cynical, pessimistic, want control.

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