Four generations are together in the workplace for the first time in history. It is how we choose to work together that will determine our success. All age groups must work diligently at being receptive and involved in the process.
1925 – 1945
1946 – 1964
1965 – 1979
1980 – 2000
Net Gen, Generation Y, or Millennials
In 2008 I read a white paper by international consulting firm Deloitte entitled, “It’s 2008. Where Are Your Employees?” It discussed the impending talent crisis. I was fascinated with the undeniable demographic truths on the horizon:
Baby Boomers exiting the workplace in high numbers
The tremendously large size of the Millennial Generation
The diminutive size of Generation X and its inability to backfill the spaces left by the departing generation
Simultaneously, I was being bombarded with requests for coaching and consulting regarding the challenges the established generation was experiencing in leading the Millennial Generation.
Suddenly, and for the next several years, the economic recession cast aside the focus on these truths as organizations struggled to survive. But of course, these demographic trends did not pause and wait for the recession to pass! In the midst of one of the worst economic downturns, many Baby Boomers opted to stay put rather than retire. This only served to put a band-aid on the talent crisis predictions, and for the time being, nothing happened.
The reality is, the talent crisis will once again amp up, the Baby Boomers will regain their confidence and proceed to retire (in droves), and Generation X will not be able to backfill the openings left by the Boomers. This situation will be further complicated by the fact that there has been minimal sharing of knowledge and the Baby Boomers are leaving with critical insight that Generation X needs to carry on.
Leverage the Power of Generations
I believe the best solutions come when all the generations are at the table, collaborating, and coming up with solutions and innovations that leverage the power of the generations.
Unfortunately, this is rare. What is happening in the marketplace is collective eye-rolling—established generations roll their eyes at younger generations, and vice versa. There is fatigue and frustration on both sides of the equation.
I often tell people that a challenge and an opportunity usually dwell within close proximity of each another. That is definitely the case in this situation. The result? Solutions are created without collaboration. Here is an example:
Not long ago I received a call from a client asking me to review their new website. I asked, “Who is your target audience?” They said males and females ages 18 to 40.
The moment I landed on the website it was obvious it had been built by a group of over-age-40 males. Front and center was a talking head with a crisp shirt and conservative suit yammering gobbledygook. He was preaching corporate-speak on steroids! Fascinating, isn’t it? This is akin to a roundtable discussion on how to target the female purchasing audience without one woman at the table!
The younger generations are more interested in human beings with hearts, personalities, and a bit of humility. They are not interested in someone who is preaching from a lofty position with eyes cast downward.
If the company had invited the up-and-coming generations to the table, they would have quickly realized what younger professionals like and don’t like. They would have created a website that would appeal to the target audience with the influence that sage wisdom and decades of experience bring.
This is one of countless examples where collaboration—leveraging the power of generations—would have yielded a superior outcome and a more innovative solution.
I always say that order matters. We all have something to learn, and we all have something to teach—in that order. If we come from a place of curiosity, where each party says to the other “I want to learn about and understand you,” we would quickly realize that we have more commonalities than differences . Once common ground is established, we can see our differences as strengths and begin to realize the infinite opportunities that exist with four generations in the workplace.
Multiple generations working together can be leveraged as a source of great potential rather than a cause for tension. I believe that we are in a unique place where sage wisdom blended with new, fresh ideas can create the solutions the marketplace and workplace desperately need.
It is how we chooseto work together that determines our success. By finding common ground, respecting differences, and letting go of assumptions, great things can happen!
Laura Goodrich is an internationally recognized expert in the ﬁeld of workplace dynamics and relationships. She has over twenty-ﬁve years professional experience, sixteen of which she has spent as a speaker, organizational trainer, coach, and consultant. Her vision, business stories, and experience from all over the globe have earned her the reputation as someone who can create positive outcomes in even the most challenging workplace situations.
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