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Breaking Down Generational Barriers

It isn’t possible to generalize a generation, and we need to stop trying to do so.

The Berlin Wall, constructed in 1961, separated East Berlin from West. On the East side of the wall was, of course, the Soviet sector of Berlin, established in 1945. The West side of the wall, comprised of American, French, and British sectors, was a free city that operated with much less restriction than its neighbour over the 3.6m (11.8ft) divisor. Throughout the nearly three decades it was standing, it was believed that all people thought, desired, and acted much different than those over the wall. But did they? In Germany in the middle of the 20th century, there was no talk about generations, no discussion about age; just that of a wall and a political idealism that separated two groups of people into silos, much like generational titles do now. There was no talk about the individual, just the silo the individual was unfairly placed in. The destruction of the wall began on November 9th, 1989. Here, some 26 years later, I’m calling for the destruction of generational barriers in the workforce.

Allow me to be a selfish Millennial and make this about myself for a moment. I’m a 23 year old individual that moved away from home at 17 to further my education, doesn’t have cable, doesn’t have an employer, and still manages to get some work done before (and, well, after) the sun sets. I do watch the occasional Netflix movie, and I do strive to be the best I can be. I often make mistakes but I feel that the only time I’ve truly failed are those times where I fail to ‘fail forward’, as I feel that any time we make mistakes and are better as a result, I’m not failing, I’m learning. These aren’t the characteristics of a Millennial, these are the characteristics of an individual. And that spans much larger than a generation.

Too often do articles read, “What Gen Y (or any other generation for that matter) really wants”. Or, “Gen Y (Z, etc., you get the point) is coming, here’s how to engage them”. It isn’t possible to generalize a generation, and we need to stop trying to do so.

21% of the Canadian population is born between 1980 and 1994. This means that 7.5 million Canadians fall into the ‘Millennial’ demographic; that is assuming you use the years above, and stick to them. But depending on the source, Generation Y, or Millennials, may have a five – ten year swing- this is significant. It must be hard to attract the right Millennial when a generation is being attracted, as opposed to an individual.

At Gen Y Inc., we help organizations of all sizes and sectors attract people based on ‘fit’ as opposed to brand or salary. We help understand employees’ potential and allow cross-generational communication and contribution to shape the future of our clients, all the while increasing engagement, productivity, and morale. Simply put, we don’t have a trade secret, and we don’t hide our formula. We simply have conversations that don’t usually happen in the workplace, focusing on the individual in the position, and leveraging what they value to guide the organization to long-term success.

Millennials are born from 19-whatever to 19-whatever. They like a lot of things and need to be respected. Some of them work really hard and are high-achievers, some don’t. Some of them like to work in teams, some don’t. Some like green olives, and some don’t. Wait, is this just Generation Y I’m talking about? It sounds an awful lot like I could be talking about any person, or any age, regardless of sex and experience.

When the Berlin Wall finally came down, there was no barrier between East and West. There was no separation between people, and everyone could live in harmony. Let’s strip the generational restriction we place on ourselves and allow ourselves to be the people we can be, regardless of any barrier that generally limits us.

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