Friday, July 20, 2007

Who is this "Generation Why?"

I recently attended a conference for automotive instructors, on behalf of my other magazine, Tomorrow's Technician. The keynote speaker for the General Session was Mr. Eric Chester, noted author and speaker. His specialty is the Generation Y (or Why? as he calls them). This is that group of people born between 1980 and 1994, the 14 to 27 year olds who are going to be running our country soon. You know them, they're generally well-tattooed and well-pierced. One person generalized them as that group of young people who look like they were caught in a fishing lure accident. I look at them and think, no thank you, I don't want you to work with me, for me, or serve me coffee. They are not like you and I, but, they are our future and here are some of Chester's observations:
2 of every 4 of them come from single mother homes.
1 of every 9 12-year olds, already have a credit card
They have never played solitaire with a real deck of cards
For them, Michael Jackson has always been white
They have never known a world without MTV, rap music, air bags, Howard Stern, and AIDS
They have always lived in a world with XTC, crystal meth, crack, terrorist attacks, PCs, and cell phones
They live in a world where an angry kid will kill another kid. Just because.
They have never known a world withouth credit cards, ATMS, or a tv remote.

What do they mean to you and your business? They are your customers, your employees, your peers, and quite possibly, your employer. What do we know about them? According to Mr. Chester, they are commited and loyal, they have a tendency to be impatient (patience is no longer a virtue), and their entire process of thinking is radically different than the generation before. They are skeptical. They need to feel like they are a part of the program. Inclusion is important, but has to be more than lip service. They have to feel engaged. Chester says they would pick physical torture over boredom. Remember that when you look at your new employee. (Perhaps that is one of the contributing factors to the whole body-piercing thing..)
These are the people who will be turning lug nuts on wheels, fixing aircraft, sharing the road with us, and building the road. We need to understand who they are and what drives them. Because they are our future: customer, peer, boss.

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