Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Generation gap and learning

I was sitting at my brother and sister-in-law’s house last night and the conversation turned to their teenage son. He was sitting in front of the computer playing some shoot and kill video game with some friends on-line. Remembering the many posts about video games and learning from other blogs, I commented that the future of work and jobs might be the ability for learning organizations to build on these new skills that don’t exist in abundance in the labor pool.

Take video gamers as an example. Last night, my nephew was sitting at a keyboard and mouse, using practically all of the keys on the keyboard for commands (often multiple keys – “S” can be shoot a gun, “ctrl-S” can be shoot a machine gun, etc…), using a mouse or joystick for some movement control, using the keyboard to control which friend he’s talking to (yelling commands to) over the microphone, and all the while toggling between views at a speed that would dizzy most of us.

My sister-in-law (a physician), commented that some studies have shown that video gamer surgeons often perform better where micro-cameras and mechanics are required – sometimes your hands just can’t get to certain places. These surgeons utilize small devices to perform miniscule operations that are no longer performed by hand or sight.

Ceridian put out a press release that doesn’t say a whole lot other than identifying differences between Gen X, Gen Y and everyone else.

For the first time in history, many organizations have workforces that comprise four distinct generations: Matures (ages 60-78), Baby Boomers (ages 41-59), Generation X (ages 28-40), and Generation Y (age 27 and younger). Matures and Baby Boomers make up well over half the American workforce. Generations X and Y comprise approximately 44 percent of the labor market, according to the Department of Labor.

To ultimately seize the opportunities of a multigenerational workforce and achieve generational competence, Ceridian encourages employers to understand and build awareness of generational differences; study how different generations interact, use products and access services within the enterprise; leverage generational understanding to identify market opportunities and to improve marketing, product development, customer service and management practices; and design projects to provide opportunities for cross-generational collaboration.

While I think it’s important to be aware of the benefits of a multi-generational workforce and the opportunities that brings, I’m much more interested in what learning organizations will do over the next decade to maximize the return on billions of dollars of video game investment.