There are six generations alive in the U.S. today. Assuming that for the most part the GI and Silent Generations are retired, very soon we will have four very different generations (Baby Boomers (ages 51-70), Gen Xers (ages 35-50), Millennials (ages 15-35) and the newest iGeneration (now teenagers) working side-by-side for the first time in history. That’s due, in part, to the fact that people are living and working longer. These four generations will also be customers, with very different values, experiences and styles. They will likely also partake in very different kinds of activities. This is both exciting and challenging. How can a business manage such diverse audience of customers and employees? Knowledge is key.
Today, we’ll look at the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964). Of all the generations living in the U.S. today, the most well-known and well-documented is probably the Baby Boomers. Born from 1946 to 1964, Baby Boomers were the children of either the GI Generation or the Silent Generation. The parents of Baby Boomers were patriotic, respectful of authority and accepting and trusting of government. Those parents also believed in absolutes, sacrificing for the greater good and following the rules. But the age of conformity, sacrifice and towing the line ended with the arrival of the Baby Boomers. Boomers are known to be mavericks, bucking trends and taking risks. What’s more, even what was known about this generation a decade ago is still evolving. Meet the “Me” Generation.
There are six generations living in the U.S. today. Each spans a period of approximately 15-20 years or so. The oldest is the GI Generation (born 1901-1926). They are followed by the Silent Generation also referred to as the Conformists or Traditionalists (born 1927 – 1945). Then came the well-documented Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964) followed by Generation X (born 1965 – 1980) and then Generation Y also known as the Millennials (born 1981 – 2000). The most recent generation to emerge (born 2001 to the present) is being dubbed the iGeneration. They are also being referred to as Generation Z, plurals or Generation Wii.
So what is the purpose of labeling and defining generations? Most people in business, marketing and the media would say that the labels help them connect with and understand specific audiences. Called generational marketing, marketers use the trends and truisms for each group to customize their strategies in line with the values and qualities of the audience. For the media, the labels help to describe and ascribe cultural, social and political trends. But those labels are completely irrelevant to the people in those cohorts. The labels do nothing to shape the identity of the generations. It is life experience that shapes and defines them. Each generation is believed to share a host of qualities and characteristics that are a reflection of, reaction to, or rejection of events occurring whilst they were coming of age.
Indeed, it’s easy to overstate or over-generalize the qualities of a generation. Not everyone identifies with the labels of their generation. For example, the generation known as the Silent Generation, is viewed as one of traditionalists and conformists. Yet, much of what is now known about this generation shows that those labels may not be a perfect fit. While this generation may have followed many of the characteristics of the GI Generation before it, it also bucked many trends. And, given their net worth, it is a generation that businesses should understand well and engage. Continue reading
Each generation is different from the one before. Each develops its own unique set of qualities, characteristics, and values, as well as likes and dislikes. These are greatly influenced by or in response to the political, economic and social times in which they are coming of age. It is also may stem, in part, from some innate desire to be different than one’s parents. Generation Xers are different than the Baby Boomers before them. And Millenials are different from the Gen Xers that preceded them. Certainly, the newest generation now emerging – being referred to by various monikers including iGeneration, Generation Wii, the Plurals or Generation Z – is bound to differ from past generations as they are shaped by technology and the accelerating speed of change.
Some business owners, leaders or managers may want to ignore generational differences and just develop and market a company’s quality products or services to everyone the same way. That, however, is a potential mistake. The more a company is able to understand generational differences and reach those audiences in a way that speaks specifically to them, the more a company’s products or services will resonate… and sell. Thus, understanding the unique characteristics of each generation is essential. Continue reading
In most any business, employees are surrounded by customers, both external and internal.
The external customer is the person who uses the company’s services. For Staples, it’s the parent purchasing back-to-school supplies for the kids. For Chase Manhattan Bank, it’s the real estate magnate taking out a $20 million loan to purchase an office building. On the other hand, the internal customer is anyone within the company who works with a specific employee or relies on a specific employee to get their job done. It is the coworker who needs a clerk’s help to track down a file, or the manager who asks an employee to follow up with a customer or the two colleagues who work together to deliver a service. Regardless of whether external or internal, each employee should treat every person with whom they interact with the same respect and courtesy.
However, often employees think that customer service begins with the external customer and ends with the company’s management. Indeed, coworker kindness is often reserved exclusively for the company’s C-Suite execs and other mucky mucks while most other coworkers are treated with an appalling lack of respect, courtesy or cooperation. The typical workplace has at least one employee who demonstrates some rude, aggressive or even downright mean behavior to certain coworkers. This bad behavior often goes unchecked for a number of reasons. But, even if an employee’s bad attitude and manners are only demonstrated to or directed at coworkers – and never to external customers or management – it can still hurt a company’s bottom line. Here’s how.
To ‘burn bridges’ is a colloquial expression that means to destroy one’s path, connections, reputation, relationships or opportunities…. often unintentionally or carelessly. It can be personal or professional. Sometimes a bridge is burned due to an emotional response to an unexpected, negative situation. Sometimes, it is a byproduct of a contentious, unsolvable dispute. It is a behavior that might be generally thought of as imprudent, impulsive and unadvisable. Yet, people burns bridges all the time. In fact, people – across the spectrum from politics to business – seem much more willing to burn bridges. Relationships that were carefully nurtured for years are suddenly allowed to end…and end badly. Why?
To begin with, few people see themselves as ‘bridge burners’. Some might see bridge burning as the result of a bad situation that was impossible to avoid. Someone who recklessly ruins a relationship might view themselves as irreverent, brutally honest, tough, shrewd, blunt or temperamental. In fact, some might even see bridge-burning as necessary for success. And, it is true that some of the most successful business people in history were known for being blatant bridge burners. For example, Cornelius Vanderbilt, considered America’s first tycoon, was known for his contentious character and legendary feuds. While his genius and force of will did more than perhaps any other individual to create modern capitalism, he was highly combative and didn’t care what bridges he burned in his business dealings. The question then is whether burning bridges is sometimes unavoidable – or perhaps even necessary – to be successful in business? Are there instances in which burning a bridge is acceptable? Or should savvy professionals always seek to build and preserve bridges? When it comes to business, is it ever okay to burn bridges?