Generation Beta – will they have bald heads and flying cars?

Kevan Hall, CEO of Global Integration shares his thoughts on Generation Beta.

I saw an article recently on Generation Beta – under 21’s and their preferred working styles and characteristics.

This is of course the latest generation to be labelled and will in its course create a series of books and consulting interventions designed to make organizations more amenable to their needs.

It’s the latest in a long series for me, I remember as a graduate trainee myself 38 years ago listening to a presentation about the “employees of the future” and how they would want more meaningful work, better life balance and better working conditions. I remember thinking “I would like that now!”

Why wouldn’t anybody want the greater autonomy, meaning and reward that each successive generation aspires to when they are in their 20s. And if these needs are so pervasive, how come we didn’t offer them in the 80s, 90s, 00s and 10s?

I think the reality is that generational differences are largely shaped by some demographic trends that change very very slowly

• When people are young they underestimate the value of experience and want to move fast, similarly older people in general overvalue experience and stability.
• You are freer and less constrained by responsibilities in your early 20s, as you age you take on commitments and responsibilities that make a higher level of security more attractive.

We also are subject to economic cycles which come and go beyond the control of individuals.

• When times are good, benefits and working conditions improve, when times are worse they often relatively decline.
• If the availability of good jobs is scarce, people become less choosy and perhaps more risk averse in their current roles, companies don’t have to try so hard
• Industries wax and wane, in one decade the brightest are attracted to banking or consulting, in the next technology or entrepreneurship

If we factor in these kinds of trends I think we explain a lot of the difference between generations.

The wild card perhaps is technology. Technology moves much more quickly than other forms of human societal evolution.

My great grandfather who died in his late 90s about 10 years ago always said that the big changes were about mobility – mobility of people, mobility of ideas and communication through technology.

I’m sure that people’s relationship with technology, in particular the Internet and mobile communication, is bringing about social change and may, according to some studies, be changing the way we think.

However, on the other hand, I’ve noticed with my own children who are in their mid-twenties that now they are work they are much less active on social media and more focused on their careers.

Arguably as technology becomes more ubiquitous, it also becomes less visible. You don’t need to be a mechanic to drive a car. With improved voice recognition and wearable devices, technology should disappear into the background leaving us more concerned with what we can do with the information.

So let me look ahead and be the first to introduce the future Generation Epsilon with a few predictions – despite their bald heads and flying cars they will still want autonomy, work life balance and freedom when they are young and for their careers to move much more quickly. They will be comfortable with technology even though they don’t know it’s there.

As they age they will want more stability and work flexibility to cope with increasing family and financial commitments.

Sounds pretty like what it was in the 2000s but with faster internet speeds, more cat videos and less typing.

 

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