“We are most certainly at the end of an era” is how Sarah Sladek began her presentation at GMC’s September 24 educational program at theWit. Throughout “Meeting in 2020, Preparing for What (and Who) the Future Will Bring,” she examined trends and demographic shifts that will shape the way we live and work. Sladek is an author, speaker and consultant who specializes in Generations X, Y, and Z and is the founder of XYZ University.
She noted that a substantial amount of change has occurred in a short amount of time due to:
- The decline of the economy
- Rapidly changing technology, with corresponding changes in how we relate, gather, and share information
- The demographic shift.
“We are on the brink of the largest shift in demographics,” she said. In just two years, Baby Boomers will no longer compose the majority of the workforce. In 2015, most of the workforce will be ages 20-33, known as Generation Y or the Millennials.
Sladek noted some characteristics that define the three working generations (Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y). Workers born before 1964 follow expectations. Gen Xers, born in 1965 or later, value individualism. They are highly independent and do not want to be micro-managed. Gen Y, born between the early 1980s and 1990s, “has seen world leaders lie, corporations fade as a result of ethics breaches, and the rise of violence. This is also the most protected and awarded generation in history. They want ROI when they attend meetings. They are the first generation to grow up never to be without technology.”
This demographic shift will redefine three areas: values, work, and meetings.
“The new generation has to feel that they belong,” Sladek explained. “They need a sense of ownership and secure relationships. We are also seeing shifts in consumerism. Boomers want to own (houses, things).” She characterized Gen Yers as “Recessionistas,” whose tight budgets lead them to seek ways to stay trendy and cultured. They are also “Migrators,” moving away from influences of childhood. This generation wants to live in communities with close connectivity. They value convenience and technology.
Both Gen X and Y have significant lack of trust. For them, the number one reason to join a group is if they think the group will do what it promises.
Sladek described other generational differences in the workplace. Boomers want to lead and to leave a legacy. Gen X wants to further their career. Gen Y wants to learn from others, while furthering their careers. Y also “craves recognition, wanting to be rewarded.”
As Gen Y increasingly populates the workplace, Sladek expects that productivity (producing faster) will be valued, leading to shorter business cycles.
Customization is important to Gen Y as they ask, “What’s in it for me?” Their influence is a factor already leading to more hybrid events. She cited a trend now burgeoning in Asia called “Expotainment.” She defined this as “the marriage of an expo with high quality entertainment” and predicts that this trend should be here soon.
Sladek noted another generational characteristic. “Younger generations are very socially aware,” she said. “Sustainability is key for them and informs their purchasing decisions.”
She closed with the comments, “The opposite of evolution is extinction. Get ready for more change.”