Generational Confrontation

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Generational Confrontation

The Trends editors have been tracking the Millennial Generation since its oldest members were born in the early ‘80s. The Millennials are the children of the Boomers and the oldest Xers, and they are now between 14 and 32 years of age.

By 2020, Millennials will represent more than one-third of adult Americans, and by 2025 they could make up as much as 50 to 75 percent of the workforce. Given their numbers, they will dominate the nation's workplaces and permeate its corporate culture. Thus, understanding this generation's values offers a window into the future of corporate America.1

The Baby Boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, has made confrontation the touchstone of its existence. As they aged, both conservative and liberal Boomers polarized America's politics, making compromise morally unacceptable.

As Boomers begin to leave the corridors of power in Congress and the executive suites of corporate America, they are being replaced by members of Generation X who prefer speed over reflection, and autonomy over collective decision-making.

Meanwhile, Millennials are becoming an important factor in consumption, which is creating the need for companies to pay more attention to their corporate social responsibilities.

Similarly, Millennials are driving a shift in buying behavior away from the glorification of consumerism to a more measured view of what's important in life.

A 2009 study by Young & Rubicam indicated that traits such as exclusive, arrogant, and sensuous fell from favor, while values more associated with those of the Millennial generation rose dramatically. Kindness and empathy rose 391 percent in these five years, the biggest shift in attitudes ever seen in the 17-year history of the survey.

Other values associated with the generation, (such as friendly and socially responsible) also rose dramatically. These shifts in consumer attitudes, driven by Millennial values, will give every American corporation that wants to attract customers, not to mention workers and investors, no choice but to deliver on a commitment to make the world a better place one cause at a time.

In their classic study titled Generations2 and their follow-up book The Fourth Turning,3 Neil Howe and William Strauss identified four generational archetypes that repeat throughout American history:

  • The Greatest Generation typified the "Hero...

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