I was part of a short email exchange last week between Roger Addison and Dick Clark – and I asked if I could share that exchange. That follows.
Question from Roger Addison
Over the years a new generation enters the workplace and articles are written on how each generation is different. What research has been done on these “differences”? Fact or fiction or snake oil?
Answer from Richard Clark
My center at USC was asked this question by a large organization a few years ago. We looked at all of the evidence we could find about value, style or behavioral differences (at work and socially) between Millennials, Boomers and gen X’ers, contacted people who had studied the question and even reanalyzed data from one study to see if percentage differences between generational groups were significant statistically and/or realistically.
We found that there are clear differences in values and political beliefs but primarily at the extreme ends of the ages. For example, Millennials, Boomers and GenX’ers tend to agree on climate change and so differ from the “silent” older generations – a trend that extends across political parties (e.g. younger Republicans and Democrats have very similar views). In fact, Gen X and Millennials are very similar on all key social and political issues. There are also differences in the ownership of newer technologies (smart phones, computers) but those differences also exist only at the extreme ends of the age distribution and may be due in large part with the reluctance of older generations to part with still functioning technology and so not upgrading. We also checked on differences in gaming since our client was considering using “serious games” for training – and we found that for the span of ages at work, there were no important differences in the use of computer based games (a surprise to us).
Despite some differences in value and increased use of newer smart technologies by the two extreme ends of the age distribution, we could not find any important work, style or value differences in well-designed studies.
The bottom line in our analysis was “no differences” that are consistent or meaningful (see attached article summarizing a Booze Allen study). Some studies have found percentage differences in views or style that when examined with a sharper pencil of statistics, turn out to be unimportant.
It’s obvious that many commentators report that important differences exist. Fictional differences are often presented as warnings to organizations by consultants who offer to solve a non-problem. When the commentator suspects they are questionable or fiction and wants to profit from it, the lie deserves to be called snake oil at best, If anyone does even a quick Google search for research on the question they will see many articles describing “myths” similar to those in the Booz Allen report (attached below).
All the best,
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Also – From Jane Bozarth and The eLearning Guild
Just out January 15, 2020 – here.
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