“Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”
When it comes to defining the period of generations, there is no absolute consensus. For example, the Merrriam-Webster dictionary defines generation Y somewhat loosely, as that of those born between the 1980s and 1990s. The Gallup research institute defines generation Y as that of those born between 1980 and 1996 (reference: Millennial Banking Customers: Two Myths, One Fact), while the global consultancy EY defines the period from 1981 to 1996 (reference: Americas retail report: Redefining loyalty for retail), which is the same period adopted by the Pew Research Center (reference: Defining generations: Where Millennials end and post-Millennials begin). However, another great social and market research consultancy, Australian McCrindle, defined Generation Y as being born between the years 1980 and 1994 (reference: Generations Defined), this period being the one we adopted here, as it represents better the next generation (Z), who was born in the personal computer environment.
As for the other dates, I tried to follow, in the same way, what seems to me more reasonable and representative, calling “Veterans” those born between 1900 and 1945, according to Gallup, although they use the nomenclature of “Traditionalists”. As for the “Baby-boomers”, the consensus is already much greater, since the consultants Pew Research Center, McCrindle, Gallup, and EY, indicate the post-war period, from 1946 to 1964, and even the American statistics department (U.S. Census Bureau) also uses it.
Generation X is defined as a natural consequence of the previous definitions. As for generation Z, I defined the beginning in 1995, as a consequence of having defined the end of generation Y in 1994, and its end was adopted in 2009, the same used by the consulting firm McCrindle, which seems more reasonable.
It was used for each defined generation period an average year, which is simply the median of the period, that is, the year in its midpoint. And what did we do this for? For two reasons: The first is that the visualization of a specific year allows a better identification of the period itself, even though we know that we are doing a great rounding. The second is that we use this year, plus another 15 years, as a reference for analyzing the typical communication equipment and devices of each generation, which is especially useful in the case of the most recent generations, where advances and changes are more and more frequent, being, therefore, a didactic resource.
Age of Each Generation in 2018
To facilitate the identification of each generation, it was calculate the age that people of each generation should be in the year 2018. Veterans are over 73 years old, baby-boomers are between 54 and 72 years old, generation X should be 39 to 53 years old, Generation Y (also called millennials) is 24 to 38 years old, Generation Z, 9 to 23 years old, and finally, the alpha generation, as the generation that is being born in the days of today, aged 8 or less.
Is quite interesting to analyze the evolution of interpersonal communication used, mainly in the professional sphere, which is our main objective here. Recalling that our reference was 15 years after the average year (considering Brazil as a reference, where these study was originally made), that is, focusing on the young person who, very soon, would be in the job market, already totally acculturated to the existing communication technology.
While generations of veterans and baby-boomers have basically used letter, telephone, and telegraph, for more than 60 years, as the primary means of communication, the following generations have experimented a huge range of new technological devices, at incredible speed . Generation X added the fax (when, finally, a document could be sent in seconds to a distant place), and the pager (which allowed communication – which was via radio – even if it was far from a phone). Generation Y already had the cordless phone, personal computers (desktop and laptop) and the possibility of using e-mail (electronic mail), being possible, then, to send documents, spreadsheets, photos, and other files, in a fast, practical and inexpensive way, anywhere in the world. In addition, there was also the cell phone, which retired the pager, as it allowed a conversation from anywhere, without depending on a public phone.
Generation Z has not only seen the modernization of computers, but also the emergence of smartphones (cell phones that allow internet browsing, and the use of an incredible variaty of applications). With this generation, communication (either by computer or smartphone) grew through so-called social networks, such as facebook, twitter, instagram, among others.
The Alpha generation will see a series of other discoveries and new communication devices gain space, some not even invented. But, the trends point (as discussed at the Singularity University, or SXSW conferences, for examplepor exemplo) the increasing use of artificial intelligence and so-called wearable devices, which are those that should be on the wrist, in clothing , on the head, or on the glasses. There will be a gradual change in smartphones as we know it today. In the future, trends indicate that smarphones should be foldable and wearable, but it is unanimous that they will be increasingly present in people’s lives. The trends also point to the use of the voice command gaining space, to the detriment of the touchscreen. A lot will come, and the Alpha generation will be a present user in that future.
While veterans and baby-boomers connected very little, as the means of communication were expensive and inefficient, over time, the generations started to connect more and more. The advent of the internet was, without a doubt, a milestone in communication, one of the biggest (r)evolutions, because it provided a huge range of options and possibilities in communication, reducing the cost and increasing the speed.
In the future, the internet of things (IoT) will be much more present, taking connectivity to standards, until some years ago, unimaginable. If today we already have some connected cars, smartTVs, and smart watches, in addition to the smartphone itself, the connectivity of the future will incorporate a huge range of objects and equipment for daily use, such as the refrigerator, stove, clothes, shoes, etc.
The evolution of communication in the work environment, over several generations, make it easier to understand the most significant characteristics that differentiate one generation from another. Here, we tried to avoid unreasonable generalizations, making only those that allow a better understanding of the most significant and applicable particularities of each generation.