Bridging the gap

“The Talent Management Challenge — Managing Multi-generations in Today’s Caribbean Workplace”: PART I

by Global Expert Systems

Over the next three weeks we will present some of the challenges HR practitioners and talent managers are likely to face in the Caribbean while managing what we refer to as multi-generations. Part I will look at the categories and the profile of each definition. Part II will examine the challenge, and part III will present some strategies to mitigate against this potential workplace problem.

Categorising Multi-generations

Now, chances are that if you are in a typical Caribbean company with 50 or more employees, you are most likely working with four different generations. We define a generation by approximately 15 to 20 year gaps. Research in the US presents us with four categories: the matures, the baby boomers, generation X, generation Y and there’s even talk of generation Z (born in the mid 1990s).

When we adapted this research to the Caribbean/Barbados reality, borrowing from project management consultant, Ian Walcott, who presented on this topic at the 2008 HRMAB Conference in Barbados, we see a similar configuration. Walcott refers to the four generations as follows:

1. The Generation of Struggle

2. The Generation of Independence

3. The Post-Independence Generation

4. The Generation of Privilege or the Millennials

This configuration will also be relevant for Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad who all gained independence some 50 years ago.

Generation Markers

In each of above generations there are significant historical events that have marked that particular era. For example, it is fairly well known and documented that the Moyne Commission came about as a result of the 1930s social and political upheaval of the then British West Indian colonies. This is the type of event that is considered a generation marker.

Therefore, the Generation of Struggle, will be marked by a period of severe social and economic hardship, World Wars, the rise of trade unions and political parties, the failed attempt at a West Indies Federation and ultimately, the granting of universal adult sufferage.

This generation is still alive to tell this tale and with ageing populations throughout the Caribbean, may continue in the workplace for yet another five or more years.

The Independence Generation is clearly marked by a renewed sense of nationhood, free education, a wave of social and economic empowerment and enfranchisement, democracy and the right to vote. Out of this social change, the region saw the first wave of Caribbean trained university graduates, the bulk of whom would have risen to positions of middle and senior management today. This first wave of UWI graduates also represent the emergent middle class within the region.

The next generation, that came into being in the 1970s and early 80s, started to enjoy the benefits of Caribbean nationhood and lost or had very little reference to a past colonial era.

Certainly within the context of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, this generation witnessed impressive economic growth compared to their foreparents; entered the middle class at a much faster rate by dint of increased university matriculation; and reaped many benefits from other social policies in education, health and housing.

Of particular note, this is a generation that also paid more special attention to family planning and we will see below how this has had a direct impact on tilting the population curves in the region.

The above graph shows that we have moved from very young populations in 1950, to a more even distribution by the year 2000 and a projected trend of ageing populations by the year 2050. By then we are expected to have close to a third of the population over the age of 60.

The final group in today’s workplace we will refer to as the Generation of Privilege or the Millennials. As the name suggests, this group lives in societies with much higher indices of human development; they travel more; have higher salaries and are more highly educated than even their parents. And, by the way, Generation Z or the Digital Generation has already started to enter the workplace.

All this has presented serious challenges in today’s Caribbean workplace and next week we will look at part II: “The Challenges of Managing multi-generations in today’s Caribbean workplace.”

Don’t miss 1st Caribbean & Latin American Conference on Talent Management on September 25 at the Savannah Hotel, Barbados and September 26 at the Kapok Hotel, Trinidad. Feel free to visit Global Expert Systems online at or email us at for more information.

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