Developing a deeper appreciation for other generations is an essential strategy for empowering individuals and creating a learning atmosphere. It is critical to empower and encourage each generation to contribute what only they can. Below are some suggestions for working across generational distinctions.
- Ask them to share their experiences.
- Verbally show respect for their experience and wisdom.
- Put them in positions where they can be social.
- Have them mentor your younger generations.
- Show respect for the work they have done and the experiences they have had.
- Rather than just giving your opinion without solicitation, ask Boomers if they would mind hearing your perspective.
- Help Boomers prepare for their exit, to leave well, leave a legacy, and leave for something they deem important.
Generation X (Gen Xers):
- In working with Xers to promote a climate of innovation in the face of constant change and ambiguity, in her book What's Next, Gen X? Keeping Up, Moving Ahead and Getting the Career You Want, Tamara Erikson suggests, "Understand the Xers' importance placed on relationships and increased collaborative capacity, their inclination to question basic assumptions enhances their diversity in perspectives and thus asking compelling questions will release these perspectives, embrace complexity and welcome disruptive information. When you try to make things too simple, you miss out on the best solutions. Sometimes the solutions are complex because the challenges are. Xers have faced challenges in their growing up environment, and are astute and seeing back up plans to keep innovation moving forward."
- People need a cause to rally behind. Shaping a strong corporate identity will bring together needed synergies with all of the generations represented in an organization. This will aid in integrating work and personal values, which Xers value in particular.
- Appreciate the diversity of multiple points of view. Xers are much more comfortable with this than Boomers. Boomers grew up and have worked in a power structure that is played as a zero-sum game where in order for someone to win, someone else has to lose. This can make the Boomer less tolerant of diversity. If they are able to judge someone or something as less, they win. Xers see the world as a place where many people can win at the same time -- one does not necessarily have to lose value in order for another to win. Compromise and working toward common goals enable the simultaneous success of multiple people.
- Gen X employees are particularly jaded by corporate corruption and feelings of being unappreciated. Help them trust your organization by communicating the value your organization places on them. Building strong mentoring relationships can support this process effectively.
Millenials/ Gen Y:
- Feedback: Millenials crave immediate feedback, and often. Susan Hutt at Workbrain/Infor Consulting instituted an online, on-demand assessment system that limits feeds back to 140 characters -- great for those used to Twitter and texting. They don't see it as curt, just quick and immediate. That a great way to review Millenials more frequently! You can't teach them only through rules and structure -- the relationsl aspect is needed as well. Mentoring is also a great way to give feedback and teach them what they need to know. They want mentors, but have a difficult time finding them. They want a road map for success, but don't know how to get there. They are used to being told what to do from parents, with lots of advice on how to be successful. Through strong mentoring relationships, help them find trusted sources of information, find what is useful and truthful, help them learn to categorize, and then help them make decisions based on what they have learned.
- Creativity: Encourage their natural creativity and curiosity. Teach them to ask: Is there a better way? Help them put what they know together in a systematic way, and challenge them when things don't fit to figure it out themselves (don't give them the answers). Help them find their own way. Set aside blocks of time for creativity and focused problem solving. Millenials are used to co-creation -- work with them with this in mind. Make it their success. Shift away from positional bargaining to joint problem solving.
- Information: They have grown up assuming there are choices for everything, from what and where to eat, to where to work and live. They have had access to all kinds of information for years -- more than they know what to do with. They think globally in a way unprecedented in earlier generations. They need trusted filters and help to process the information, putting value to it, and prioritizing it. Mentors can help them use information in a meaningful way. Provide information that is portable, transferrable, paperless, and accessible all the time.
- Structure: Millenials will share what they know -- they do it regularly. Help them find what is worthy of their time and energy to share. Set up rewards and incentives for completing certain benchmarks or learning and development exercises. Help them see the path that will lead to their success and the specific steps they need to take to get there. Help them see that they have a responsibility for the results.
- Cross-train: Cross-train Millenials for jobs throughout the organization. Let them try out a number of positions before you finally place them. They will learn the company better, may have new perspectives to offer, and can use their penchant for creativity and innovation with a more well-rounded view of the overall company.
- Reverse Mentoring: Allow Millenials to become mentors to older generations. Millenials' comfort and expertise with social media and electronic modes of finding information can be beneficial to older generations. Reverse mentoring should also increase positive exposure for the younger workers, along with expanding their education in other areas of the company.
Gen Z/ iGen:
- As this generation is just beginning to enter the workplace, there is still much to be learned about their strengths and challenges within a work setting. However, it is clear that they are not only digital natives, but cloud natives. Additionally, they are very connected to their "smart" devices. This not only comfort with but reliance on portable technology will certainly become a factor in the workplace. It also appears that this generation will lack early career experience, so setting up a mentoring structure that is focused on career education and development from the moment of on-boarding, or perhaps even before, will be important. This generation will have much to offer in new ways of thinking, but will need guidance to learn to fully tap into this skill.