Keith R Szewczyk

Manage the Generation Gaps

In Generation X Leadership on February 11, 2011 at 6:47 am

by: Keith R. Szewczyk

Over the past few decades our lives have really changed with the advancements of technology. Our parents read comic books to past time as kids. Today our kids are playing handheld electronic games. The rapid change in technology created a huge increase of efficiencies, and a diverse presence within the workforce. The way we do business and enjoy life has been altered by this technology advancement, and has created generation gaps.

The Baby Boomers had to deal with the old fashion landline phone call to talk to a colleague or customer out of state, and use the snail mail system to deliver documentation, which were received a few days after they were sent. Business moved very slowly for them during their early days. Therefore, Baby Boomers had to be patient and be methodical in their decision process. Once they would make a decision it could take days to communicate a change in their decision.

Today we make decisions quickly and communicate them instantly…sometimes too quickly! Documents are generated and transmitted electronically for review instantly via emails. Everyone carries cell phones and can be contacted at anytime from anywhere around the world, and when we cannot answer our cell phones we communicate with a text message to keep the business moving. Today Multitasking and real-time all the time availability is the norm. The Baby Boomers are doing an amazing job changing and keeping up!

Though technology has added both good effects and bad effects, the focus of this post is about understanding the generation gaps and managing them. Baby Boomers have learned to use the technologies like cell phones, emails and even mastering the smart phones. Generation Xers were growing up during the start of the technology transformation, and are very much considered technology savvy. The Generation Yers grew up with the reality of technology dominating their lives, and have developed some very special traits that make them unique to manage.

Baby Boomers are my favorite generation to manage and a very key piece to any organization. They are the stability to an ever fast moving pace of business today. They respect the hierarchy and chain of command, and their thoughts and decisions are well thought out. They are steady and consistent. The challenge going forward will be to manage the loss of these traits in the future when they are gone, and how to evolve into a new business practices.

Managing the gaps between the Baby Boomers and Generation X and Y population is a challenge as the gaps creates frustration on both sides. The X and Y frustration comes from the Baby Boomers slow methodical approach. The Baby Boomers get frustrated at the X and Y’s hast decision making process, to them they seem to lack any thought. However, you need the quick pace of the Generation X and Y behaviors as they are innovating and taking important competitive advantage growth risks in small manageable chunks. This is an advantage that we must manage, foster and leverage to grow our business in today’s environment.

The following management techniques may help with managing these gaps:

  • Reach out to the Baby Boomer prior to the assignment of a task before the team gets involved to allow them time to do their analysis. They will respect the fact that you are putting them in a comfort zone and empowering them to take control of the team. Allow them time so they can add their value.
  • Allow Baby Boomers to continuously add their value doing what they know and enjoy doing, and give the Generation Xers options to grow. Generation Xers need to have continuous growth that allows them to have options or they will move on to other perceived greener pastures.
  • Understand your communication style with your workforce. Generation Y is very attune to strategy and the financials. Be prepared to continuously talk to them on a regular basis. Draw a conclusion of the success of the topic and how it financially drives the strategy. They are in continuous need for feedback as they are the Internet generation and are use to gaining this information at the speed of a Google search.
  • The Generation X understands the Generation Y behaviors and even portrays some of them at a lesser degree. Do not assume that the Baby Boomers understand or even accept the Generation Y behaviors. Talk to them and get them prepared to work with Generation Y.
  • Flexibility, work-life balance and virtual work settings will need to be addressed in some positive fashion for the Generation Y. Look over your policies and be prepared to revamp them as this generation starts to grow in the workforce.

This topic is a very critical topic for current senior management to address. HR will be a very critical stakeholder for all management across the company going forward. Please provide your thoughts and experiences managing this great and exciting diverse workforce.

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