Last week, I was travelling back from a meeting in the US with two of my colleagues when our flight was turned around following sharp mid-air turbulence.
The entire situation was handled poorly by the flight crew and airline – from not providing in-flight updates or any measure of comfort to passengers, to running the re-booking process at the airport with a skeletal staff (and no one was compensated for the incident).
It was obviously a very bad experience for everyone on the flight, and I am so thankful I had my colleagues for company through that scary flight. As I was pondering over the experience last weekend, it struck me that our travelling trio included a Gen-Xer, a millennial and me (on the cusp between the two); and our reactions were very distinctive of our respective generations. My first thought upon landing safely (which was echoed vehemently by my millennial co-traveler) was that we should write a letter to the airline to share our feedback, whereas the Gen-Xer was focused on the big picture: we had landed safely after a harrowing flight and we should be thankful.
This attitude gap is well-represented in volume 4 of The Conversation Index put out by Bazaarvoice in 2012,[i] which found that in Canada, millennials are overrepresented in their share of product/service feedback relative to the population. We (I am technically a millennial) are the first to review a product or service upon trial, especially if it is overwhelmingly positive or negative. By contrast, Gen-Xers are decidedly middle-of-the-road and provide more 3-star ratings than the other two groups.
Generation X represents an important audience for most businesses simply because they are either in or reaching their peak earning and spending years. On the younger end, Gen-Xers are building families and buying homes; at the other end, empty nesters are getting ready to enjoy greater purchasing power guilt-free. Like millennials or Generation Y, digital is the best way to engage with Generation X. While they aren’t digital natives like the younger millennials, they were the generation that came of age along with the Internet. Alongside millennials, they are the biggest users of smartphones and social media, and represent the largest group of content consumers on the go, according to eMarketer.
According to research conducted by job site Monster.com, more Gen-Xers (57%) also identify themselves as extroverts compared to millennials (51%) and are more likely to take a risk in their current jobs (40% vs. 28% for millennials). More Gen-Xers feel they are in their current job for the long haul, while over 50% of millennials feel like their current job is a step in their overall career.
And while these differences exist between the two generations, in some regards it isn’t such a big divide. When it comes to the big things that we look for in our jobs, salary, benefits, work-life balance and location, they matter equally to Gen-Xers and millennials.
This past weekend made me wonder if perhaps those of us living in the cusp should take the lead in bridging the gap between the two different (but not polar opposite) generations. After all, each of us has something to learn from (and teach) our colleagues based on the breadth of our life experiences. I consider myself very lucky to be part of a great organization that does this in an awesome way, every day.
(In the interest of full disclosure for the curious: I have already sent in my complaint to the airline via email. If I was more firmly embedded in the millennial set, a tweet might have sufficed.)