Matt Carmichael in his Ad Age article interviews Tammy Erickson, the writer of a trilogy of books about generations in the workplace. The most recent is What’s Next, Gen X?
Matt ends the interview with Tammy’s description of how the U.S. Army understands the generations.
One example I often use in speeches is the ads from the U.S. Army has used over time. When the army was trying to recruit the generation that I call “Traditionalists” [the pre-boomers who are now aged 65 or older] — people who are very comfortable with hierarchy and authority. They love institutions and want to join. That’s when they used the “Uncle Sam Wants You” tag. So you had an authority figure telling you to join an institution. Very aligned with the values of that generation. When they wanted to recruit the boomers — idealistic, anti-authoritarian, self-fulfillment and all that, they did “Be All that You Can Be.” “Uncle Sam Wants You” would have just pissed the boomers off. When they wanted the Xers, they switched to “Army of One,” which is a very odd notion when you think about it. But it certainly has connotations of self-reliance, which I would say is the major value inherent in Xers. Today they’re talking to the parents. “You Made Them Strong, We’ll Make Them Army Strong,” so they’re picking up on the close relationship with Gen Y and their parents.
As a boomer I can’t forget how our parents not only didn’t understand us, they thought we would never amount to anything. I have to keep reminding myself of that whenever a young man joins one of our groups. I see it as if he is from another culture with different experiences and values – but still one of us human beings.