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Four Generations at Work

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Four Generations at Work


Dr. Jan Ferri-Reed Come with me on a journey, if you will, a journey through the generations. And we have four generations in the workplace right now. So lets take that journey and lets start with our most mature generation termed the mature and traditionalist generation. And lets think about what Morris Massey has thought us which is "we are what we were when." And as we consider the mature generation, those traditionalists, when you look at the influences that they grew up with, certainly we understand some of the workplace expectations and values that they hold so dear, that whole idea of duty before pleasure, that consistency with regard to dedication to our organizations. Consider the fact that for many of them, theyre still working in the organization in which they started their career and that loyalty factor can add a lot of value especially as we tap them to consider the knowledge transfer that needs to take place and all that knowledge and history that might be here that needs to come across for generations to come. Now lets journey next stage to the boomers. That generation, born 1946 to 1964, one might say -- and this is often coined as the baby-boomer generation -- we, at one point, fought against the establishment and then we became the establishment. Like it or not, boomers spent a lot of time developing careers. Yes, having a very strong dedication similar to the mature generation, but also looking at ways that one can not just build career but to build corporations, and to look at some of the ways that we can extend individualism, let alone teamwork that fell after that. And as we consider our boomer generation, sometimes there is some conflict amongst other generations or between generations by natures of the boomers saying, You know what? I had to pay my dues to get here and so, therefore, my expectation is that you need to do the same as I. Where in some ways, we will see as we progress in our journey, other generations dont necessarily view the workplace similarly. So as we journey, as we move to the next generation, that generation being generation X, and we look at those birth years of 1965 to 1979, and lets remember generation X experienced some things in the economy start to downshift or a downturn. They also experienced dual-career families, and became what we have commonly referred to as the first latch key kids. So whats very important to a generation X would be the autonomy, the independence. And one of the values that they bring to the workplace is "lets make it real," so as leaders and managers, we cant count on the fact that our position or our title necessarily engenders respect. But instead how we behave and how we walk and talk is certainly going to be scrutinized by that generation X. And last but not least, those in the workplace, the millennials, and you look at the influences of those born between 1980 and 1999, one first thinks about the fact that they are in fact a very wired generation. Wired with respect to energy and wired with respect to connectivity, especially if you think about the advent and the burst of technology that we have in the workplace. They are multi-taskers. Theyre looking at ways to add contribution, and what they would say is they really come into this life looking at working to live, not living to work, because theyre also the same young people who say I need to really grab at immediacy and what for me will make sense because I dont know what longevity will mean or what a longterm career will mean especially when we look at changing not just careers but also multiple jobs within those careers. So as we consider, especially as we bring all of this together with regard to whats common among all generations, yes, we do have four generations in the workplace but there are things that we need to do as managers and leaders to make sure were diminishing the conflict and looking at ways that we can really appreciate the contributions of those

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Four Generations at Work

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generations and thats the first step. The first step is lets debunk those stereotypes. Lets start to take a look at where are there commonalities, and most especially, what are the contributions of those different perspectives and how we can bring those together with regard to the history as well as the newness and the eagerness that is associated with it. Second thing we can do is where is there flexibility, and flexibility comes in all types of shapes and forms. Flexibility may be flexibility in the workday. Flexibility may be in how we look at traditionally and currently solving problems, and flexibility around how we view each individual and, in fact, how we motivate or how we manage that individual based on that persons preferences and what motivates him and her. And last but not least, how about making our workplaces fun -- which is very beneficial not just for someone whos been in the workplace for a very long time, as well as for someone whos new -- but that fun aspect can be an attractor and can also be a connector. So we really are experiencing multiple generations and four of them right now, and that journey will help us to really leverage and appreciate those differences to make a better workplace for all.
2012 - AthenaOnline.com, Inc. No part of this transcript may be reproduced without the specific permission of the author.

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