My book, Generational Insights, has helped managers from broad arrays of businesses better understand and engage the generations that make up today's workforce. This course features teachings from the book, along with practical application examples.
From face time to Facebook, each of the generations in the workforce today sees the world through a unique lens. What may seem like minor nuance at first glance is actually a fundamental difference in how they view the world. The result is a disconnected workforce with few areas of common ground.
In this course, you will learn from over a decade of experience researching the generational divide in the workplace to identify solutions for the problems that arise when managers and employees are not speaking the same language or worse, are using the same words in completely different context.
You will be better enabled to communicate with multiple generations in the workforce and to learn how to turn the unique qualities of each generation into strengths for better business outcomes.
The younger generations are coming into the working world in a time of great progress. There was a lot of growth in the 90’s and not many people to fuel it. As a result, these youth have power in spite of their small numbers. Combine this talent gap with changing workplace values, and the business world went haywire. Change was clearly needed – the question was, “who would change?”
While it’s very easy to write off the different behaviors of the younger generations as factors of youth, it’s clear that we need to go deeper than that. Understanding why the generations act differently from one another is the key to success. Once we understand what has shaped the younger generations’ perspective, we can see that they still have values and strive for success. However, what those values are and what success means to them has changed.
Are the generations really all that different? In short, yes. Each generation has different historical experiences that shape their expectations about life, work, technology, and many other things. This distinction is genuine and is steadily reported by businesses around the country, even worldwide.
When you think of the Matures, three things should come to mind: Duty, sacrifice, and scarcity.
Today, the Boomers are in charge. They run the government at all levels, and they are the leaders, managers, and CEOs of most companies. They absolutely dominate the workforce, and they do so because of their enormous numbers.
More commonly called Xers, members of this generation were labeled as lazy, sarcastic, irreverent slackers by the generations before them, and were often told that they would be the first generation to not be as successful as their parents.
In spite of all this, Xers have a very “carpe diem” attitude towards life, focusing on the short term and giving significance to every day. Seeming to spur the labels given to them by the older generations, they have willingly shouldered the responsibility for their own well-being.
Perhaps the most confounding generation – at least to the Matures and Boomers – is the Millennials. Born in a time of limitless technology and overall national wealth, these workers are beginning to enter the workforce with a naïve – some might say unearned – sense of personal value. This is the first “participation trophy” generation, and they were told by their parents to “go find a job that makes you happy.” This generation grew up believing they were all special, and that leads to some workplace tendencies that might be seen as needy by the other generations.
For the past 25 years, Gen Xers have been finding their footing in the workforce. They were the first generation to buck Boomer trend of long hours and lots of face time. They wanted to work hard and play hard during their working years. They flitted from job to job following interesting work and talented bosses. More than anything, they wanted to enjoy their work.
However, as Gen Xers have aged, their priorities have changes. Now firmly in adulthood, they are beginning to ask, “Can this company meet my needs and those of my family for the next five or more years?” More than anything, they want to maintain their signature flexibility while also achieving success in the office. In short, this generation wants it all, and thinks it’s possible to get it all. The good news is that businesses can take advantage of this new Xer attitude by being flexible and meeting a wide range of employee needs.
Xers are trying to be the manager they wanted, one that gets out of the way and lets their employees do their work. The problem is that this approach doesn’t always work in a management role. Boomers need a certain type of management to feel engaged and productive in their workplace. Millennials need yet another management style. The point is that there is no one-size-fits-all management approach, and Gen X managers need to recognize that.
There has been a breakdown in communication between the generations. Everybody’s talking, but nobody’s hearing each other. The key component here is how the generations view their time. There is a fundamental difference between the generations about who owns it. For the Matures and Boomers, time belongs to the company. For the Xers and Millennials, their time is their own but it is rented or traded by the company.
A great way to get more flexibility in your workplace is to offer an option for flexible schedules. Younger generations have a strong desire to control their time and feel like they own their lives. They watched their parents work under traditional scheduling and have decided that’s not the way they want to do it. As a result, they want control over their schedules. If that’s impractical, which it absolutely is in certain fields, make sure that’s clear up front to all new hires. Transparency in communication is critical to engaging younger workers.
Many businesses are using a round model to organize their promotions and advancement paths. It allows for rapid promotions that satisfies the younger generations’ need for instant gratification. These promotions, which are real, truthful recognitions of achievement, act as stepping stones between larger career advancements. More important, though, these promotions are a good way to capture and retain the attention of the Xers and Millennials.
With meandering career paths becoming more usual, the younger generations, especially Millennials, tend to seek out people they admire or trust to help make sense of their career goals. It has become more and more important to have effective leadership available to employees. This is where mentorship and advocacy programs come into play.
While they play similar roles, mentors and advocates offer advice from different perspectives. A mentor uses experience to pass on information and skills. An advocate, on the other hand, looks to the future. They focus on what the employee can do, where they want to go, and help them outline a path to that destination. Their focus is on the person, not the job.
Today's younger generations are a group that is used to constant and rapid advancement, huge education demands, and a strong preference for education to be entertaining. This can be a two-edged sword for training departments. On one hand, you’re dealing with a group of people that already knows a lot, but is capable and eager to learn more. But, you’ve got to find a way to deliver that training in a way that keeps them engaged.
The best workplace environment for Millennials – one that will capture and retain their attention – is one of a strong sense of community and filled with team-based and social opportunities. Company-supported social activities create connection and increase interactions within the workplace.
As Boomers and Matures retire, they will take with them decades of experience and information. This is important, because, although skills can be taught, knowledge transfer is harder to deal with, especially now. With many members of the younger generations “leapfrogging” through their careers, not spending much time in one place, the natural transfer of knowledge from one generation to another is in jeopardy.
Cam Marston is the president of Generational Insights. He works with companies to prepare them for the changes created by the generational transitions in the workplace and the marketplace. The author of three books and two eBooks, his research reveals the changes occurring today and the changes forthcoming and how to prepare. Through lectures, videos, workshops, and consultation, Cam's clients move forward with plans to address their companies, their sales efforts, their recruiting strategies, and their retention strategies. For nearly twenty years, Cam and his company have been the marketplace leaders in the realm of generational differences. Clients range for large multi-national companies to local and regional family businesses.