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Mind the Gap

It's a generation thing. I’m ageing as we all are, and whilst I try and resist the ravages of time as much as the next puffed out jogger, I embrace many of the positives that age brings. Don't tut readers, there are many wonderful benefits associated with getting older. 

Most of my peer group are caring less about what everyone else thinks about them and they focus more on what they think about themselves. Nothing gets saved for best anymore but enjoyed every day, the rainy day in the future has been given the push for the sunny day this week. In short the deferring of gratification has become a thing of the past as we seek to enjoy each and every day. And long may it continue. But what of our workplaces, are there really so many differences between us and each of the generations?


There is a wonderful book by Graeme Codrington and Sue Grant –Marshall called Mind The Gap that has had me missing tube stops recently, so engrossed am I in its wisdom. It identifies the different generations and the ways in which we look at life, work and everything else and it really is a fascinating read You can identify yourself as one of the following groups:



  • GI's born 1900s to 1920’s
  • Silents born 1920’s to 1940’s
  • Boomers born 1940’s to 1960’s
  • Xer’s born 1960’s to 1980’s
  • Millennial’s born 1980’s to 2000’s



Each group it is suggested has a completely different attitude to work. GI’s are grateful to have a job: Silents work hard because it is their duty to do so: Boomers want work to be self-fulfilling and make them feel important: Xer's work to fund their lifestyle and Millennial's go to work to change the world.

If we ignore the sweeping generalisations and assume at least some of the general thrust of the research is correct which I believe it is, we have some difficult issues to consider. In most workplaces the mantra of treating everyone the same has been trumpeted for so long it has become ingrained in our thinking, our policies and our practices. What most of the research about work and people these days tells us that although it may be a more economic model to use, a one size fits all approach is unlikely to get us the results we want.

I was recently a  judge for the national advertising awards in recruitment (RADS) a privilege I had also experienced about seven years ago. The differences in the two experiences was vast. Print advertising is now only a tiny part of the event and the use of social media had grown beyond my expectations. Imagine a world today without Linkedin, or where you have to post application forms with attachments and photo copies. These days are long gone (I hope). I was really excited by the ability of organisations to create a viral buzz about their employment brand and roles through creating communities of interest. This is great for the millennial's who have grown up with computers attached to their every move but for those who have been around a little longer it can be a steep learning curve. 

I am working with a public sector body who has to make a number of staff redundant and we will be working with those staff to address some of the gaps in their knowledge of accessing jobs boards, utilising social media as a networking tool and identifying transferrable skills in a world where they might feel a little bit on the shelf.

A century ago we were right in the middle of the industrial age, jobs were for life and if you didn’t die on the job you retired after working for the same organisation all your life. Today’s Xer's (in their 20’s and 30’s) carry their business in their laptops, work in jeans in coffee bars and feel little loyalty for the companies that tossed their boomer parents on the scrap heaps in the last downturn. They want their pay cheques, their promotions and they want them now!

There is a middle ground: enlightened CEO's and HR departments are building an understanding of the benefits brought to organisations by a range of age groups. They are starting to let go of benefits and promotions through timed served routes and don’t demand loyalty in the same way they have before. A modern workplace that can blend the ambitions, energy, dreams and value of all of the age groups is the one that in my view will succeed in challenging times.

A little quiz for you before I go, which generation are you if you:


  • Iron this year’s Xmas paper to wrap next year’s presents?
  • Have parents that don’t understand that “whatever” is a valid answer?
  • Think dinner is over once you have dropped the take away cartons in the bin?


 For the answers and so much more treat yourself to 'Mind the Gap'







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