The sessions at last week’s EBSLG conference that perhaps provoked the most discussion concerned the research that had been undertaken by two Ashridge researchers, Sue Honore and Carina Schofield, into how the young people of today will want to learn, work and ultimately manage and the impact this will have on our organisations.
The session started with an unwelcome reminder that I invariably just keep missing the cut on questionnaires at the moment. Lots of people have different takes on where each Gen starts, but in this research I came out as Early Generation X. (Baby Boomers: 1946-63/Early Gen X: 1963-73/Late Gen X: 1973-82/Gen Y: 1982-2002). Only one member of the audience was discovered to be Gen Y (and she was quite rightly harangued for the remainder of the conference for being too damn young!) After establishing which Gen we all were we were asked to choose from a list of options as to what words we each individually felt most and least summed up Gen Y. My ”most’ votes went for: Short Attention Span, Risk-Taking and Technical Wizards, whereas my ‘least’ votes went for: Hard Working, Deep Thinkers and Friendly with all ages. There was broad agreement amongst the audience as to the ‘mosts and ‘leasts’.
We were subsequently presented with results compiled after a series of focus groups, interviews and online surveys. Key findings were that other Gens perceived Gen Y as ‘Self-confident’ but they themselves did not. ‘Ambition’ was a different story with Gen Y being more ambitious than they were perceived to be. ‘Attitude to Technology’ results showed that Gen Y were only marginally more embracing of technology than other Gens (and Baby Boomers were just as embracing as late Gen X). As for ‘Young in Attitude’, Gen Y saw themselves as the least and Baby Boomers the most, with a growing trend inbetween. It seems we all see ourselves asyounger in attitude the older we get!
Overall the research identified a number of ‘remedial areas’ in the Gen Y make-up, as follows:
- Emotional Intelligence
- Written English
- Face-to-face people skills
- Information validation
- Financial management
Any surprises there for you? Not many for me I have to say. There followed some debate as to whether Gen Y were really that different to Gen X and Baby Boomers when they were younger. Honore and Schofield insisted that Gen Y were different and that their research (of which we only really had a glimpse) proved this conclusively.
A specific finding that perhaps is the most significant for us librarians is that Gen Y are perceived to be technical wizards (e.g. searching/use of data/web activity) but in fact are no better than any other Gen, however, they DON”T know that. And when you bring the aforemnetioned lack of interest in information validation into the frame we have a problem on our hands…
Finally, we were presented with some info on how Gen Y prefer to learn. Again few surprises but good to get this reaffirmed (in order):
This presentation only scratched the surface of their full research findings which are due to be published in a downloadable PDF in a few weeks time at this URL: http://www.ashridge.org.uk/GenYResearch
This report will of course be worth comparing with the BL and JISC study: Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future which concentrated on Gen Z (defined as born between 2000-present day), which in short concluded that Gen Z:
- over rely on search engines
- lack critical and analytical skills
- scan rather than read material
- have overestimated ICT skills
N.B. The BL and JISC are currently working on a follow-up Gen Y report as well.
Does anyone have any good news for us librarians? No? OK then.