Book Summary: Generations At Work

Today in business, we are witnessing a phenomenon never seen before. Unlike in the past, when a job was for life and people worked in peer groups of like-minded, experienced, and educated colleagues, today's business associates transcend generations.

This isn't going away anytime soon. We'll keep working till we drop as long as the strains of financial and budgetary demand persist!

Zemke et al. investigated this issue and devised strategies to avoid a collision, as well as strategies to improve our cross-generational business. Let's get started.

The Generation Game

A picture that show generation from the oldest to youngest.

The following generational groupings are proposed by Zemke.

  • Traditionalists: People born before 1943 who grew up in the aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II and had a can-do attitude about life.
  • The Baby Boomers: Those born between 1943 and 1960, during and after World War II, and nurtured in a period of tremendous optimism, opportunity, and advancement are known as the Baby Boomers.
  • Generation Xers: Those born between 1960 and 1980, following the Baby Boom's peak, grew up in the shadows of the Boomers and the emergence of the Asian tiger.
  • Millennials: People born between 1980 and 2004 to Baby Boomers and early Xers in a culture that valued, nourished, and safeguarded children.

The Challenge

Traditionalists, Boomers, Xers, and Millennials all have different work ethics, attitudes on work, preferred ways of managing and being managed, quirky styles, and diverse forms of seeing work-world challenges such as quality, service, and, well... just turning up for work.

Let's take a closer look at these generational viewpoints.

The Traditionalists

Traditionalists, as their name implies, have strong work ethics as a result of their macroeconomic background.

They are committed, willing to make sacrifices for the greater good, diligent workers who follow the rules, and respect law, order, and authority. They are also patient in receiving rewards, prioritizing duty before pleasure, and willing to go to any length to ensure achievement.

Consistency and uniformity are important to traditionalists. Traditionalists like large-scale events; they don't believe in magic but rationality. And they are well-behaved. They have a strong sense of the past and are well-versed in history. They think of a job as something they'll keep for a long time.

Traditionalists are more likely to be satisfied with the art itself. Although that satisfaction tends to come from doing a job well rather than seeing special meaning in their work.

While these characteristics are useful, they are frequently the source of conflict between generations.

  • According to Baby Boomers, "They're authoritarian and dogmatic, and they need to learn to be more flexible and adapt to change. They're stifled, technical dinosaurs, and narrow-minded."
  • Gen Xers—they remark, "They're stuck in their ways too much. Man, you need to learn how to text! They've amassed all of the funds."
  • Millennials say, "They are trustworthy. They are wonderful leaders. They are bold."

Try any of these tactical remarks to encourage a Traditionalist:

  • "Your expertise is valued here."
  • "It's useful for the rest of us to learn what's worked in the past—and what hasn't."
  • "Your determination is admired and rewarded."

Traditionalists are frequently found in prominent leadership positions.

Traditionalists are frequently seen in high-level management positions. There, they favor a directive approach.

Command-and-control leadership and executive decision-making seemed to them to be a good system—simple, straightforward, and obvious, without the complexity of involving the public.

It produced renowned leaders like Patton, MacArthur, and Lombardi and got things done.

The Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers, who grew up after WWII, are an upbeat generation in an era where technology, fashion, and politics all changed at breakneck speed. Because they grew up in the 1960s, boomers are more involved in social concerns than previous generations.

Boomers believe in expansion and growth. They are egotistical. The general sense of optimism and promise that they were trained to take for granted - to regard as their birthright - has profoundly influenced the Baby Boomers' growing psyche.

They have followed their own fulfillment, often at great personal and social cost. They dumped the job if they didn't enjoy it and moved on.

Boomers are team players who value personal fulfillment, health, and fitness. They are service-oriented and prepared to go above and beyond, yet they are averse to disagreement. Other generations, however, are not necessarily fond of them.

  • Traditionalists claim that they discuss topics that should be kept private. They are preoccupied with themselves.
  • Internal politics are important to Gen Xers, yet they speak but don't walk the walk.
  • Millennials claim they're good role models, but they believe they should loosen up.

Is this an inspiring message for the Baby Boomer generation?

  • "Your contribution to our success is critical."
  • "You are respected and cherished here."
  • "Be the best you can be"
  • "We require your assistance."

Generation Xers

3 people rushing to work.

The spotlight was never truly passed on to Generation X from the preceding generation, the baby boomers. It's a generation that has gone unnoticed until now. Survival in a pessimistic and isolated society formed the psyche of Gen Xers. They learned how to look after themselves. Being a survivor is now a desirable quality.

Outsiders, Gen Xers are itinerant individuals who may work for a company but never feel like they belong. They are, nevertheless, establishing roots and rising as leaders. Gen Xers are diverse, think worldwide, maintain a sense of balance, and are technically savvy. They're lighthearted and easygoing, yet there's a realistic underpinning to them.

Gen Xers are self-sufficient, having grown up in an economic DMZ where they had to look after number one. They desire a balance of work and pleasure, as well as time and space.

They have a laid-back attitude toward authority, as though they are unconcerned, leading to cynicism. As one might expect, Gen Xers aren't always appreciated, given their rebellious nature.

  • They don't obey the rules, according to Traditionalists.
  • They are considered slackers by the Baby Boomers.
  • There are isolated goths among Millennials.

Do you want to inspire a Gen Xer? "I don't care how you get it done" and "I'm not going to micromanage you" are two phrases to use.

The Millennials

millenials generation that oftenly use social media as a main platform.

They are the first generation to have grown up in a world dominated by digital media. Before the age of five, two-thirds of them had used computers.

They have access to friends, parents, information, and entertainment 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They have high expectations and defined goals since they are used to being the focus of attention. They are willing to put in the effort and expect to receive their help to succeed.

Optimism, confidence, and a feeling of civic responsibility are among the key values of the Millennial generation. They were reared to understand that they were wanted, required, and irreplaceable. They value honesty, think education is fun, and look up to their parents as role models. They believe in the future and consider themselves as change agents and leaders.

Millennials are team players. They were trained to work together to solve difficulties. They consider themselves to be more powerful as a group than previous generations. They may work together to develop a clear collective vision and lofty goals and then rouse their peers with an SMS, IM, or Facebook message.

They're all different. People born in the last two decades have had greater everyday contact with people of other races and cultures than ever before. As a result, they are self-assured. They've also been told since they were small children that they're exceptional and can be great. Intergenerational antagonism exists once again.

  • Traditionalists contend that they must toughen up. They have no regard for tradition.
  • Baby Boomers claim they're enslaved by their cell phones. They've never done anything like this before.
  • They claim to be unrealistic, according to Gen Xers. We're at it again. Another generation of spoilt brats has been born.

Do you want to inspire a Millennial? Consider some of the following tactical statements:

  • "This is a place where you can make a difference."
  • "You will have a clear professional path that will allow you to progress."

Where Mixed Generations Work Well Together

Mixed generation work well together.

More than a few businesses see the benefits of having a generationally diverse workforce. They're leveraging the power of varied ideas, interests, and abilities coming together.  

There are two keys to building a successful intergenerational workforce: assertiveness and diversity deployment.

Generational disputes are predicted and brought to the surface via forceful communication. The energy of behind-the-back whining, passive-aggressive conduct, and blatant antagonism is redirected to initiatives that may benefit from various viewpoints. Particularly young people's new insights and the knowledge of experience.

They take the time to discuss what the various cohorts and people are seeking in the workplace:

  • What makes work rewarding?
  • What are the most productive environments?
  • What factors, such as job load, timetables, and policies, contribute to a pleasant working environment?

The tactical use of people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, abilities, and perspectives to boost project teams is known as difference deployment. Organizations that are generationally aware respect variations among employees and see them as assets.

Generationally balanced workgroups appreciate and learn from yesterday's experiences, comprehend today's challenges, difficulties, and requirements, and hope that the future will be different still.

They are at ease with a situation's relative rather than absolute nature, knowledge, talent, worth, and, most importantly, problem-solving solutions.

From the mouths of acorns...

To tie it all together, Zemke and his colleagues devised "The ACORN Imperatives," a set of five operational philosophies that foster and create oak-strong organizations.

Accommodate employee differences.

Generationally friendly companies treat their staff the same way they treat their consumers. They gather as much information as possible about them, seek to suit their individual needs, and treat them according to their preferences.

Create choices.

Generationally friendly companies allow the workplace to evolve around the job done, the customers who are being serviced, and the people who work there. They understand that employees of all generations have different wants and preferences. They tailor their human resource strategies to match those demands.

Operate from a sophisticated management style.

Although considerate, generationally friendly employers don't have time for nonsense. They present the overall picture to those who report to them. That includes precise goals and benchmarks.

Then they let their employees go, providing feedback, incentives, and recognition as needed. Their leadership style varies depending on the scenario. Personal influence is more important to them than positional authority.

Respect competence and initiative.

They treat everyone, from the newest hiring to the most seasoned employee, as though they have a lot to give and are encouraged to perform their best.

These organizations hire carefully and go to considerable lengths to ensure that people and jobs are a good match. They never seem to forget, though, that they recruited the greatest people available for a reason: to do the best job possible.

Nourish initiative.

Companies concerned and focused on being generationally friendly are concerned and focused on making their workplaces magnets for excellence. They understand that maintaining their employees is just as crucial as obtaining and retaining clients in today's market.

As a result, they provide extensive training. They devote time to studying how to become the employer of choice in their sector and area, and they "sell the perks" to keep the finest and brightest people on board.

Best Practices and Other Great Ideas (from the Real World)

Better together invent great innovation.

PepsiCorps, PepsiCo's worldwide corporate volunteerism program, was founded by workers who wanted to make PepsiCo's Performance with Purpose vision a reality.

Employees are assigned to month-long tasks to address global concerns as part of the program.

It's a fantastic experience for employees, a benefit to local communities, and a way to help the company meet its goals. It also aids in the growth, retention, and recruitment of talent.

Employees at MITRE Corporation in Bedford, MA, can "change jobs without changing employers."

Internal transfers are encouraged by this effort. It enables managers to provide 8 to 10% of their employees to transfer to a new job within the firm each year. Workers of all ages advance in their careers and get more experience.

Mentoring is a focus of KPMG's website. Every boss has a protégé, every young employee is supposed to have a mentor, and persons in the middle are frequently expected to have both.

The mentoring website promotes social activities such as lunches, softball games, and happy hours to foster informal networking. KPMG also offers community service time off. These techniques have helped cut turnover from 25% to 18% in the previous five years.

A Final Call to Action

A man is rushing because he got the final call.

Try the following typical activities to become more generationally aware.

  • Provide reverse mentorship programs in which younger staff assist older colleagues in adjusting to new technology.
  • Examine your workforce's generational makeup and utilize that data to create HR efforts.
  • Match the age makeup of your employees to the demographics of your consumer base.
  • Managers should be rewarded for keeping their subordinates. The organization rewards managers for various things, but employee retention is rarely one of them.

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