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  • Chris Gibbs

Generation X and the Millenials


Over the last few months I have worked alongside some great people across a broad spectrum of ages. During this process, I have noticed something great from my generation, known collectively as 'Generation X', that we have a wealth of experience and knowledge in our chosen fields, and also in life. This comes from the number of working years we have been able to rack up, but whatever our area of expertise, we seem to be a generation split by technology.

For members of Generation X lucky enough to come into contact with a computer at school, it was limited to special occasions (wheeled into the room on a trolley!) and was used to play educational games, not to enhance our skills for the work place. So when we landed in the workplace, we were all exposed at various stages to computers and software that could assist us in our daily work. It appears that this has lead to two very different experiences now that we are in 2015.

There are those of us that found ourselves emerged in technology as we gravitated towards it in our careers, enabling us to learn and adapt with each new phase. For me, working in the travel industry, meant that I had to move forward with technology, I couldn't just ignore it and pretend it wasn't happening. Discovering that I had an aptitude for understanding and adapting to new solutions was a bonus and helped carve my career. For others in industries slower to replace manual systems and without the same exposure to new technology or platforms, where they find themselves today, can be quite different.

I've recently spoken with three friends from Generation X; one is an experienced hotelier who can manage a hotel, maximising occupancy and room revenue standing on her head, the second is an inspirational business consultant and mentor who sees the world with a fresh perspective and the third is a talented entertainer. All of them had recently been left feeling 'stupid', 'incompetent' or simply 'old' by young and ambitious new recruits who have grown up in a world of evolving technology, instinctively knowing how a new app works or picking up training on a new system at the drop of a hat, because they find the technology intuitive and are not intimidated by the prospect of learning.

My editor (yes, I love technology but know where my strengths lie!) has told me she totally relates to all this, she is technophobic and has two teenage daughters who roll their eyes at her when she asks them to help her with something on the computer, they approach the task with the words "didn't you know that?" She said that if there was an apocalyptic pulse that destroyed all technology, she would happily go back to using pen and paper for everything, she wonders also if the Millenials would be able to cope with that as easily without falling apart.

I have seen how younger team members appear to write-off the experience and knowledge that their colleagues have, based on their ability to understand html tags or a social media app. Using the phrase "it’s easy" or "you just have to" as an open response before finishing the sentence in what could be seen as a foreign language! This to the listener can chip away and slowly destroy their confidence, making people doubt their own skill and worth in the workplace. It would be like any of the greats; Einstein, Mozart or Freud arriving in 2015 in a time machine, would their ability to write in html, how to tweet or instinctively know that the icon in the top right hand corner of an app is for settings, distract from their genius and expertise in their fields?

The Millenials are the future, but maybe they should grasp the opportunity to learn from the experience and knowledge of Generation X. They should understand how technology has developed and changed over the last 10 to 15 years to help them face the next 20 to 30 years in the work place. Technology is only a tool and does not have all the answers. Knowledge and experience still counts for a lot.

Millennials, next time you start a sentence with "it’s easy, just …." take a moment to step back and try asking a few questions about the task in hand. "Why do we need to do this, what would happen if we didn’t?" This way you can learn from their experiences and then guide them into the best way of using the technology, while remembering to explain each step to help them next time they are faced with a similar task.

Generation X, next time you shy away from new technology take a moment to learn from the Millennials around you - tell them what you are trying to achieve and why before asking them to show you the best way to approach this using the technology available. Don’t shy away from asking questions, asking them to go slower or taking notes.

After this? Go for a coffee (be warned, Generation X may take the opportunity to tell tell you that in their day, there were only two choices for coffee, black or white!), or go for a drink after work and find out more about each other. Millennials could learn from understanding how the industry you are both working in has evolved over the years and what it was like before technology (yes there was a time - I still remember the first time I tried to control a computer mouse..,.I was 22!) and then you can both use the information to enhance the future!

I’d love to hear if this works for you and how you have been able to share the skills and knowledge from each other's view points.

My editor has written a great poem about the evolvement of technology, please go to her website - onevoiceliteraryagency.com click on 'My Poems' and you'll find the poem there.


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