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To set the record straight, I’m a relatively serious person who would never admit to watching reality TV.  But have you seen the commercials for a new show called “Forever Young”?  According to my informants at, the show “follows five people under the age of 30 and five over the age of 70 as they live together in the same house and experience the ups and downs of their generation gap.”  Good times.

Despite its required TV silliness, “Forever Young” offers a glimpse into things that really happen in our lives.  But who would have thought that the show’s premise would be relevant to our day-to-day work?  The thing is, because of certain trends, the generation gap they poke fun at in “Forever Young” is playing itself out in the real-world workplace – and it will have a major impact on the on the way we manage our workforce for years to come.

Enter Jeanne Meister, a highly respected thought leader in the areas of the workforce and corporate enablement, and co-author of The 2020 WorkplaceAs far as I know, she had absolutely no involvement in the production of “Forever Young.”  But as a researcher she might have some interest in the show’s premise.

During her recent keynote for SAP Education’s year-long virtual symposium, The Learning Revolution, Jeanne cited research by Gallup indicating that the age workers expect to retire has increased significantly, from 60 years old in 1995, to 67 years old.  Because of trends like this, she predicts that by 2020 there will be “five generations working side-by-side as the new normal for the workplace.”  This sets up a new kind of generation gap (or gaps), although I'm hopeful it will be a little tamer than the one portrayed by reality TV.  Here's Jeanne Meister's view of the composition of the workplace in 2020.

Five generations in the workforce by 2020.  Source:  Jeanne Meister

This is nothing new for those of you who are involved in corporate learning.  You’ve been dealing with “generation gaps” for years, although probably nothing like this.  Jeanne’s concept of a “multiple generation workplace” is fueling a revolution in learning that requires us to be even more innovative in the way we prepare employees to do their jobs.  Not only must you meet the needs of Baby Boomers like me, who grew up learning from teachers in classrooms.  But you have to accommodate a growing number of Millennials who are looking for a learning experience that is more personalized, often informal, and frequently influenced by social media.

That’s the crux of the Learning Revolution Virtual Symposium I mentioned earlier.  SAP Education is leading a year-long online conversation about how to address the multiple generation workforce, not to mention the technology innovations that are fueling change.  What changes are you seeing in your workforce?  Have you implemented new, innovative techniques to address them?

Register for the Free SAP Education Symposium.  Please join our virtual symposium to share your insights (register here).  You’ll also be able to hear Jeanne Meister’s complete keynote and other highly relevant presentations throughout 2013 in the on-demand in the virtual Theater.  And one more thing: Tune in to TV Land April 3 for the premiere of “Forever Young.”  Who knows what else it can teach us?