We need to find a balance that brings both together as one.
It is an interesting question for those in the baby boomer generation, who are often critical of millennials and Gen Z – how do you think your parents, who lived and fought through the Second World War, felt about the social change seen in the 1960s and 70s?
The argument is that they were far less patronising that many are today of the young generations and yet they must have been quite shocked at how society evolved.
For Millennials the question is – why are you so afraid to take risks and be accountable?
The real issue is that we are seeing two conflicting schools of thought now begin to have voices. There are many baby boomers still at the helm of businesses and understandably there perspectives and thinking are very different from the generations emerging today. It is no secret that the baby Boomers who grew up in an era of Thatcherism – which asked people to take more control of their own lives, greater freedom to entrepreneurs and celebration of wealth – plus the changes generated by the Big Bang of 1987 will naturally have a more combative, competitive and arguably more transactional thinking than many in the emerging generations who do possess a broader mindset – one which is more social, and global. Neither are wrong. They have emerged in different periods but they are conflicting.
To make the landscape even more complex, the work environment has changed dramatically over the last twenty years plus we have all lived through a period of austerity. All businesses have been under pressure and both leaders and young talent have been struggling. It has made the differences between the generations almost more pronounced and the challenge is:
– To find a positive balance between the mindsets of the generations. One cannot criticise the baby boomers too much as they have achieved great things in business over the last thirty years. They have built wealth like few other generations. However, it can be argued that they have been more focused on wealth than the social piece. There needs to be a better balance found and it is no coincidence that even the FT has argued for this change. The emerging generations do excite many with their broader focus so how can we bring both together?
– The baby boom leaders grew up in a very different era and did not have to contend with the pressures that young talent today are facing. It was just different. As life was far so less transparent and open, it allowed many to feel free to take risks. Today many are psychologically risk-averse and this is a problem. Risk-taking is important. It is very clear that there is a need to find new structures and methods for preparing emerging leaders for key leadership roles. They are not breaking through at the same rate so something is acting as a barrier and the existing structures are not working – so what change is needed? How can we better help the young emerge?
– The great businesses of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s did proudly hold broad values that did impact on people and communities. It was one of the reasons that many employees were proud to stay almost for their whole careers with a single company. Arguably it was the Big Bang of 87 that did change things. Regardless, the average young employee today stays with a single employer for an average of 1.8 years. One can easily make the argument that businesses possessing a genuine social strategy and agenda will retain talent and build pride. So how can we bring both businesses together with social agendas even more closely to work as one?
None of the above is ever surprising or radical. It is simply two different ages conflicting but both need to understand the strengths and positives of the other and to find a far better balance. The desire is there; it just needs actions rather than words. Most see through bold words and tick boxes today and it is an actions strategy is all the above that is needed.