Saturday, October 25, 2014

Week Forty-three – The Generation game!

Gen Y, X, Boomer or Silence? Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s a generation’s game!

In case you are wondering what I am referring to, these are the names we have given to each of the new generations that have form since the beginning of the century.

Let me give you a brief explanation:
  • Gen Y are those born between 1980 and 2000, also know as the millennials. These are the new Generation that everyone is talking about.
  • If, like me, you were born between early 60’s and 80’s you are part of the Generation X (I quite like my generation, the X makes it sound interesting…)
  • Boomer is the term used to describe those born at the end of the war and up to the 1960’s. They are also known as the “baby boomers” a termed use because of the baby boom of that time.
  • And anyone before this are known as the silent generation, I think it is because in those days children where to be seen not to be heard!

By the way, the new generation coming through (those being born now and up to the 2000’s) have not been given an official name yet, but you may have heard of them being referred to as the Z generation or in some cases the Nano Generation (is Apple responsible for this name?) And if you’ve not heard about this then WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE LAST 10 YEARS!! This seems to be all we talk about nowadays!

So why am I talking about this subject on week 43 of my blog? Apart from the fact that as I said it is such a popular and hot topic in our every day life, this week I was witness to how interesting it is when you are in a room full of people from all generations, the dynamics of it and suddenly all theories around this collapse, because at the end of the day we are all the same, human beings trying to get by in life.

This week I had the privilege to be invited to the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of one of our hotels, which in hotel years, this is quite an achievement, especially in the ever changing and challenging hotel world. And one thing that caught my attention was that 25% of the employees have been there since the opening! Yes 25 years service and they were all still looking forward to the next 25!

Part of the celebrations involved a special ceremony to honor these employees and their achievements, including a slideshow of pictures from the past with 80’s haircuts and mustaches. I was invited to do a speech as part of the event and I wanted to make sure I included everyone in my words, not only those with a quarter century of service, but those who have just join us; every person in the room, whether new or long serving, young or old, was part of the success of the 25 years of impeccable customer service and a great reputation.

I remember sitting by the side of the dance floor thinking about what I would say, I needed to recognize those long serving members, no doubt about that, but what could I say that would make everyone feel part of this special day. After a few moments I realized that the only way to do this was to not make a distinction, we had already recognized the long service members, so I decided to forget about who had what and how old or young you were. So I got up and asked everyone to join me by standing up and putting their hands together in a clap. I asked them to repeat this action time and time again, faster and faster until the room was erupting with clapping. Having energized them I asked the to take a seat and pointed out that the clapping hadn’t been for me but for each other, as we were here to celebrate everyone who for the last 25 years had contributed every day to the success of the hotel, whether for 25 years or two months.

So there you had it, Gen Y, X, Boomers and I think some Silent were celebrating each other in a shared success, all barriers where down and they were all one team.  I think this gave every generation the opportunity to recognize each other and ok, there were no Gen Ys within the 25 years service (that would have been illegal!) but they knew that they had contributed to the success of the hotel and more importantly had something to look forward to.

This “hot topic” of generations often points out how different each generation is. For example, the new workforce coming through are the Gen Y’s who have access too much more technology and social networking than previous generations and we are told we need to be ready for them. Every generation has its own distinguished trademarks and trends, there is no doubt about that, but I do think that no matter when you were born there is one thing that we all have in common, and that is our basic needs and instincts. Let me explain what I mean by this.

There is a model call the Maslow Hierarchy of needs, which I think is a good way to try to understand that there are no major differences in generations. In his model Maslow says that in order to be on top of the hierarchy of our needs, which is know as Self Actualization, you need to first fulfill all other needs. At the bottom of the hierarchy is our basic survival instincts, what he describes as the physiological needs; food, water, sleep – whether you are a Boomer, X or Y, we all need to satisfy these needs before we move up the hierarchy. Not surprisingly the next level is security: shelter, job and family security, health – I don’t know about you but I don’t think it matters how old you are, we all need a bit of security! Next is the much-needed love/belonging! And we all need a bit of love at some point in our lives, there is no generation out that has never appreciated the feeling of belonging, being wanted, friendship and family. So far, in the first three levels we have yet to see anything that would be different in each generation. There is one more level between belonging and self-actualization and this is known as esteem! and what is esteem according to Maslow? He describes it as Self Esteem, confidence, achievement, respect for others and respect by others. Studies about Gen Y talk about this being a generation that looks for belonging, being recognized and wanting to achieve more, they want development! I don’t think they want anything that the other generations have been looking for.

In Maslow’s theory Self-actualization is at the top because this is when you have actualized everything you set to do in your life. If you are boomer, you have probably achieved or is closer to this than any of the other generations but self-actualization can happen at any time and as many times as you want in your life.

  • Maslow wrote this theory in 1943 so he is defiantly from the silent generation, but somehow what he talks about in his hierarchy of needs prevails and probably will prevail for years to come because at the end of the day, no matter what generation you belong to, we are all the same, just human beings trying to survive in the same world, looking to satisfy our basic needs in order to fulfill our lives and achieve self actualization!

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