Cyndi's Two Cents

Generational differences


I have attended many leadership conventions and courses in my lifetime and usually walk away with a nugget or two of information and ideas that I am able to put to good use. Earlier this month, I was selected to attend a Women Leaders in Sports Convention. I know, it is ironic that one of the least capable in athletics would be selected, but Brownfield’s parent company, Learfield, has sports partnerships with more than 1,200 collegiate institutions.

To be totally transparent with you, I admit to grumbling a bit to my husband about having an early Sunday morning flight to New Orleans on a beautiful October weekend when I would have preferred to stay home. I was honored to be selected to attend but had incredibly low expectations of getting much out of a women-in-sports event.

When Jim texted me that Sunday night to ask if it was as bad as I thought it might be, I told him I was eating crow. It was a such a good convention. I give a lot of lip service to others about “getting outside of your comfort zone” and learning what makes people that do not think like you, look like you, and come from different walks of life than you tick. It was kick in the pants for me to walk my talk! It also did not hurt that the sessions were more about leadership than about leadership in sports.

One of the most eye-opening sessions focused on generational differences in the workplace. Presently there are five generations in the U.S. workforce: Traditionalists (ages 78-95), who make up 17.6% of the population; Baby Boomers (59 – 77 years old), making up 21.8% of the population; Generation X (ages 43 – 58), at 19.9% of the population; Millennials (aged 27 – 42) at 22% of the population; and Generation Z (aged 11 – 26) making up 20.3 % of the population. Generation Alpha, not yet in the workforce includes those ten and younger, representing 8.4% of the population.

Lindsey Pollak, a globally recognized career and workplace expert is, according to the biography in my convention agenda, a leading voice in generational diversity. She shared some nuggets of information that reinforced what I already believed and others that left me in disbelief:

  • Forty percent of Generation Z would like to leave their jobs with two years.
  • Thirty-five percent of Generation Z would leave even without another job lined up.
  • According to The Federal Highway Administration, the share of 16-year-olds getting their driver’s licenses has nearly halved since the 1980’s.

That final statistic rattled me to the core. Pollak and others point to the arrival of the smartphone as the agent for this radical change. Dr. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University writes regarding smartphones and social media, “The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on smartphones.”

That right there is scary. We all need to foster an environment of community and connection with those younger folks who struggle to communicate without a screen in front of them.

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