The Gatehouse Blog

Generation Why?

I’m getting bored of all this talk about communicating with Generation Y employees.  Maybe it’s because I’m now closer to 50 than I am to 20. Or maybe it’s because I’m fast becoming a grumpy old man.

I keep reading about the challenges we all face when it comes to engaging a group of employees characterised by their free spirit, self confidence and determination.  I hear about the importance of social media and networking technologies to this distinct audience segment. And I nod in agreement.

But I’m beginning to grow tired of the chatter. We bang on about diversity and inclusiveness on one hand and then seem to obsess about getting through to employees in their early 20s. I think we’re missing a trick.

I agree that GenY-ers are important, but I think the other end of the working population represents an even bigger and more important challenge right now.

The working population is changing. By 2026 half the adult population in the UK will be over 50. I will be one of them. At the same time the number of younger workers entering employment will fall.

This isn’t just a UK trend – the workforce is aging just as quickly elsewhere in the world. By 2012, workers who are 55 and older will constitute about 19% of the US labour force, compared with 14% in 2002. That’s one in five employees over 55 within the next five years.

It’s about time we sat up and took notice of this trend.

Instead of focusing all our energies on Generation Y, it would be great to see a little more debate and discussion about the challenges of communicating with older employees.

Just how do we go about motivating employees who have been short changed on their pensions? Whose dreams of early retirement have been washed away? Who feel they operate in a working world designed for a younger generation? Who have been through boom and bust and come out the other side?

How do we ensure our communications engage and make sense to fifty-somethings (and at the same time appeal to graduates in their early 20s)? How do we embrace social media in an inclusive way, so that our channels appeal to all employees, regardless of age?

These are big challenges for our profession and they warrant much more air time.