We are witnessing a changing of the guard so to speak. There are multiple generations vying for sustainability in our workforce today. As one generation, the Baby Boomers set off to retire, Generation X is maturing into their roles and Generation Y is poised to take the reins. How do we bridge these generations to move forward in our economy?
I happen to be a product of Generation X, which combined with the Baby Boomers, we compromise the vast majority of senior leadership positions in our country. We are the hiring managers, mentors, coaches and role models for the generation that follows behind us. So what do we bring to the table in terms of assess to pass on to next generation? I believe possess wisdom, experience and a strong commitment to the future. Our biggest downside is that we seem to have suspicions about engaging with Generation Y and understanding how they lead and operate in this new world.
In scanning the landscape today in our workplaces, I see two sides looking at each other across a great divide with caution, suspicion and dissatisfaction. On one side you have the Gen X/Baby Boomer side which is focused on the organizations they lead, profit & loss, revenue growth, filling open positions, developing employees, and improving work cultures among other issues related to running a business. While Gen Y seems to have greatly different view of work expectations compared to their predecessors. For some in Generation Y, the term putting your time is not a phrase that is well received whereas Generation X/Baby Boomers have lived by this mantra since their entrance into workforce.
Generation Y values a work/life balance, flexibility of schedule (telecommuting) a belief in a mission and transparency of all information. Juxtapose to my generation who when they entered the workforce 20 years ago at 60-70-hour week, getting to the top of the corporate ladder were our norms. We
So How Do We Bridge The Generations?
Do we point fingers at each other and create a mass divide in the wake of our leadership? Or do reach across the divide and find common ground. As we know as leaders, nothing gets accomplished without compromise, trust and commitment. Both sides have much to offer each other. So perhaps we can take a look what each generation can proffer to the other.
Let’s Start With Generation X/Baby Boomers
What can we do to get the ball rolling with Generation Y?
1. Remember you were young once, stop assuming! – We all started out in the same place. We are all young and ready to take on the world. Let’s engage with these newest employees and listen to what they have to say. Don’t assume we have them figured out or assume that cannot provide value to us. Just remember – someone thought that about you once too. Put yourself in their shoes.
2. Go Back To School – Want a real trip back in the past? Visit a high school or college campus. Talk with this generation before they enter the workforce. Don’t wait until they show up for their first interview and be shocked they don’t act like we did at that age.
3. Invest In Gen Y — If you don’t invest now in Generation Y you only have yourself to blame when you complain that they are not “leaders” in your organization. Invest in the resources and time in organization where it will be the most beneficial for Generation Y by engaging, hiring, training, developing and retaining these individuals.
4. Show Them, Not Tell Them – Generation Y wants to learn, they desire to soak up your knowledge. They are not going to get this through just hearing your stories or reading alone, they are visual and hands on. Give the ability to work with you, provide apprenticeships if possible.
5. Tap Into Their Knowledge — This is a generation that has had access to technology since birth. They are tech savvy and they probably have more to teach you in this area than anything else. You would be smart to harness this knowledge and use it to your advantage.
And Now What About Generation Y?
You have much to offer the prior generations but keep in mind change takes time as well. A few rules of road may be in order to find that balance.
1. Keep Perspective About Your Career – Understand that Generation X and Baby Boomers are not trying to hold you back on your work/life balance or flexibility of schedule rather. We have a different take on how those goals are earned. Appreciate that we come from a different time and our perspective differs. We know having a life is critical – most of us missed our 20’s by working through them. Have the perspective that Gen X and Boomers see it as earned right not something you get in your first job out of college.
2. New Tricks for Old Dogs— Social media has brought the arrival of “virtual” relationships. And you are leading the charge. Keep in mind, that us “old school” Gen X/Baby Boomers are more likely to value fewer, more personal relationships over an extended network connections. Not every organization will embrace texting – not every industry or leader has embraced this new wave. Be patience with leaders and organizations – be adaptable to accept that it will take time for some to change. But don’t sweat this – you have the ability to step up and teach us old fogies how we can adapt this technologies into our organizations as well.
3. Lessons From Mentors — Most business leaders will tell you that mentors and advocates were influential to their success early in their career. There is enormous value in having experienced guides to help you steer your career. Many senior leaders are willing to be a mentor, but you must win their advocacy first by showing your commitment to the relationship.