Associations are not prepared for the dramatic changes that generation Y—people now ages 9 to 29—will have on the workplace, markets, politics, and society, according to demographer and author Kenneth Gronbach.
He blames the five-year housing crisis as the primary reason gen Y's impact has yet to be felt, since it forced baby boomers to keep working and stymied access to home equity.
With housing on an upswing, the largest generation in American history is "going to take an already highly productive workforce and supercharge it," Gronbach says.
As "cyber citizens" adept at technology-based multitasking, "gen Y is going to change our world and make our heads spin," he says, noting that the United States is the only nation with this demographic phenomenon. The challenge will be how to harness their abilities and attitudes to power effective organizations.
"Demography is all about live birth, migration, and death, and yet we dont get it. Maybe it's just something we don't want to think about," says Gronbach.
One common mistake? "We tend to try to understand the world around us as dictating what the future is going to be," he says. "But the real future is all about people, because people who will shape the future 50 years from now are already born. All we have to do is track them, and its not that hard. When you understand the critical masses of demography, forecasting actually becomes pretty simple."
Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and writer at ASAE. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org