Coming of Age: The Generation Y and Baby Boomer Nexus: Combining the Diverse Strengths of Workers from Two Very Different Generations Will Be Increasingly Important in the Future

By Chapman, David | New Zealand Management, October 2006 | Go to article overview

Coming of Age: The Generation Y and Baby Boomer Nexus: Combining the Diverse Strengths of Workers from Two Very Different Generations Will Be Increasingly Important in the Future


Chapman, David, New Zealand Management


New Zealand Institute of Management judges were again interrogating the nation's brightest and best young executives last month, as they have for the past 11 years. They were choosing one from three regional finalists who will go on to win the coveted mantle of NZIM/Eagle Technology Young Executive of the Year at the Deloitte/Management magazine Top 200 Awards in Auckland next month.

The Young Executive of the Year Awards are part and parcel of NZIM's commitment to identifying and applauding excellence and outstanding achievement among the nation's up-and-coming leaders and managers who are 35 or younger.

And over the years, the judges have chosen some of this country's most outstanding young people as award finalists who, in turn, have gone on to become equally outstanding older leaders and managers. Individuals like Barbara Chapman, ASB marketing guru, who is now in Australia working as chief executive with her mentor Ralph Norris; Russell Stanners, now CEO of Vodafone; Stefan Lepionka of Charlie's Juice fame; Theresa Gattung, Telecom CEO; the NZ Rugby Union's Therese Walsh and a host of other equally successful but perhaps not so high profile individuals.

NZIM increasingly sees its contribution to lifting the standards and competency of management in New Zealand starting at an earlier age--secondary school, for instance. The Institute is now delivering programmes to around 80 colleges throughout the country and then working with an ever-growing population of tertiary students who are turning to formal NZIM programmes to advance their careers.

It's all about meeting the expectations of generation Y--the ambitious and aggressive under 35s who are bent on making it in their careers while simultaneously insisting on an attractive lifestyle. These experience-hungry, reward-driven individuals are our future and that is why NZIM is focusing on helping them to realise their potential.

But the members of generation Y represent only about 20 percent of our population. There is a bigger group out there at the other end of the spectrum that New Zealand must also be concerned about. And the challenge is to bridge some of the gap that exists between these two age brackets in our society. Both, in different ways, are our future.

I was part of a small team that made up an Employment of Older Workers Summit in Wellington last month. Our deliberations prompted me to think about the issues that exist across our economy's management age span. Generation Y is unquestionably our future, but almost 40 percent of New Zealanders that are 55 or more are in paid employment and 75 percent of them work fulltime. And, for the moment, it is an expanding pool. In fact, it represents an ocean of wisdom and experience which, with all the energy and determination in the world, young managers cannot possible capture overnight.

How to make the connections? Awareness of the issues and some changes in prevailing attitudes are a start point. The fact is, there is an expanding number of baby boomers in our society and they are our pool of older managers and workers in general. They are also working longer. New Zealand has relatively high employment rates for people 55 and over compared with many other countries. We rank seventh out of 30 other OECD countries.

And the trend is increasing, driven by our steady economic growth, a decline in unemployment, changes in social expectations about retirement age, the changing role of women in the workforce and the increase in the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation. In fact our own internal study looking at issues around workplace productivity-identified the urgent need to utilise this significant pool of older workers.

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