Consider these multi-generational facts: In my home, we have three different generations – two Generation Xers (to which I belong), a Millennial and a member of the newly defined “Cloud Generation.” This means we have three generational groups represented, each expecting to coexist, contribute, administer and follow the house rules and receive recognition as part of our total family unit. While we have the same goals, each of us has formative values that were influenced by a different baseline of social, environmental, political and technological factors – – all of which are “normal,” but, different from each other.
Some believe these challenges stem simply from Millennials (those born generally between 1981-2000) who are upsetting the apple cart with their “new” ideas, expectations and/or ways of doing things. So I decided it was time to further explore the driving factors that influence generational issues in the workplace and expand my own understanding.
My research and participation in workshops reinforced what I am hearing from clients. Changing employee demographics will continue to powerfully impact the way we conduct business and interact with each other in the workplace. Consider the fact that by 2020 (a short four years from now), Millennials will make up 50% of the US workforce. These current and future employees were shaped by world events/socio-economic climate; technology and cultural values that are very different from prior generations. It’s these personal development factors and events that change the expectations of each group and what they expect of and from the others.
Developing this greater contextual understanding of these workplace demographics is only the first step of building an efficient multi-generational workforce. It’s important to incorporate this expanded generational knowledge, sensitivity and awareness and look at your employee and leadership training and development through this new generational lens. Doing so will help eliminate misunderstandings of generational issues and provide clarity on why different generational groups approach work differently.
Some examples of looking at key training areas through a generational lens:
- Leadership Development: To know your workforce and their values allows you to work more effectively and consider the unique motivators, perspectives and strengths of each generation.
- Mentoring & Succession Planning: Both are perceived differently by different generations. What works for one won’t necessarily work for the other.
- Employee Development and Career Progression: The way in which different generations regard career movement and promotion within an organization is one of the biggest gaps that exist in the workplace today.
- Communication Literacy: Different generations have different comfort levels and expectations with communication tools and approaches.
- Conflict Management and Stress Alleviation: Clarifying generational perspectives, expectations, motivators and values helps to eliminate workplace conflict and reduce stress.
Helping your organizational leaders and employees to better understand the different factors that influence the way they live and approach work as well as those that influence other generations will help to eliminate generational barriers that stand in the way of creating a culture of trust and acceptance. As with generations before them, Millennials and those that follow bring new ideas to the workplace that drive change and innovation. The quicker we help to eliminate generational misunderstandings, the quicker we can all enjoy the success!