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I’m not trying to cause a big sensation….



So I’m a bit of a geek. I get it and I’m ok with it. Although being a geek I should be able to do technical stuff, which I clearly can’t…which makes me somewhat of a Luddite geek, if that isn’t an oxymoron.  I’ve written before about demography, because a) as I said, I’m a geek b) it interests me and c) it is incredibly important and much overlooked.

If you explore the blogosphere and the journals over the past few years, you’d be excused for thinking that there was only one generation that we needed to worry about, the aptly named Generation Y. But our organisations are stacked with people from across the generations, with different needs and requirements and with different hopes and aspirations.  Yet 9 times out of 10 we deal with them as a homogenous mass taking no account of the stage of life or individual aspirations.  Ok, so I know I run the risk here of being labelled as stereotyping, “not all people close to retirement just want to work their last years in peace” or “not all young people are ambitious and wanting to progress”. I get that, but then treating people the same isn’t any better either.

We do it because of the concerns around discrimination, but exactly through our attempts to be seen to be whiter than white we inevitably discriminate against people, maybe not illegally but certainly inappropriately.  Addressing different demographic groups within our workforce and tailoring our offer to meed their needs will be an essential element to the retention of key individuals.

–  Do your talent management programmes recognise the ebb and flow of the life cycle? Do they allow for parents to have children but then continue to progress their careers at a time that is right for them, in a way that means they can make a valuable contribution and manage to balance work and life?

–  Do your compensation packages recognise that those earlier in their careers are more motivated by increasing their base salary whereas those later on may be more inclined to think about pension contributions, PHI cover and life assurance? Is reward ultimately service driven and does this lead to retention issues amongst newer staff?

–  Does your development offering focus on the different learning styles that different generation have based on their educational background? Do you focus your offer on different phases of the human life cycle or do you only focus on employee life cycle?

Focus on the shifting demographic profile of our work places is going to become even more crucial as retirement is pushed later and later, as third and fourth generation immigrant families, with different value sets, become a regular part of the workforce, as lifestyle choices become wider and wider and the differences between being directly employed or self-employed become less and less.

It may make you a geek to start talking about it, we all have a bit of that inside us. But if it makes a difference for your business and your workforce, then surely it has to be worth it?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 12/08/2010 14:57

    Good points, well made.

    I’d say that demographics isn’t geeky; it’s an essential starting point for getting to know what’s going on in a crowd too big to understand intimately.

    And it’s a way to start asking the right questions rather than waiting for people to shout – not all groups are equally vocal or demanding about what they want and need; quiet doesn’t always mean content.

    But then perhaps I’m only speaking for My Generation …

  2. 12/09/2010 10:02

    @Anthony Madigan – Completely agree. Perhaps it just isn’t the sexy subjectthat HR people want to bang on about?

  3. Alana Inness permalink
    12/09/2010 10:04

    Great post, Theo. For too long I have been getting really frustrated at the “in thing” of concentrating solely on Gen Y. However, I’m not sure that generalising for each different generation works for me either. I know it’s a cliché (but they must become clichés for a reason) but the only way to achieve equality is to treat people differently. People are individuals, not just part of a generation, and have different needs depending on more than just when they were born.

    In my experience, and I have analysed a lot of employee engagement data, the things that are important to most people are the same. I.e. get the basics right first – so pay and benefits, working environment and communication, etc. These things are important to most people of whatever generation but how they are applied to individuals may need to be different (and this is not often guided by generation). Once the basics are right then you can take things to the next level by making sure roles provide enough interest, give access to progression and give recognition for a job well done, etc and again how these things are achieved will be different depending on individuals.

    I guess what I’m trying to say/illustrate, in quite a long winded way (I never think best early in the day!), is that there are a lot of similarities across generations and that application of good working practices may depend on more than just what generation people are part of, personally I think there are other demographics that should have a greater consideration when thinking about the way we treat people.

  4. 12/10/2010 12:49

    Don’t think this is geeky at all. Totally agree that some of the fundamental demographic shifts you refer to aren’t attracting the attention they ought to; and the segmentation of employees you suggest also makes perfect sense. Some orgs (but not many) do this, of course – Tesco and Nationwide, I believe – taking their cue from their marketing colleagues; but it’s hardly widespread. And yet, I guess such segmentation should/would naturally fall out of any thorough review of an org’s employer brand.

    Now, if you printed off all the data, stuck it all arund your walls at home and memorised it, THAT would be geeky…. Er, you don’t do that, do you?!

  5. 12/19/2010 15:10

    With an ageing population it is going to be even more important to provide flexibility and freedom of lifestyle.
    However, this is not just something for organisations, individuals have to take the consequences of their decisions. If you decide you want to spend less time at work, should you really expect your employer to value you as much as someone who works longer and harder? At the end of the day they are there to rn a business, retaining and motivating talent is an important part of this, but if we don’t do the work nobody gets paid. There is no such thing as a free lunch.


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