When I was your age young fella…
When I grew up it was 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, and 9 to 12 Saturday, and that was more than enough for everyone. Pubs closed at 6pm in Australia until the 1960’s, and then outrageously until 10PM afterward. The only way to legally get cash was from a ‘flesh and blood’ bank teller inside a bank. Going to a restaurant was a special event and Fish ‘n ‘ Chips on a Friday night just about wrapped up the takeaway food market.
I am a baby boomer – just. In fact, you could count in days how close I was to being a Gen X (hanging on desperately to that connection as you can tell). I have two wonderful Gen Y daughters. Like most parents, my wife and I don’t understand why they don’t always behave like we did at their age, and why their expectations are quite different to ours. Why are they still conversing with their friends in the middle of the Sunday roast (furtive glances at the iPhone, Facebook, Instagram)? Why don’t they sit in the lounge in front of the TV instead of downloading a whole series that has yet to air on Australian TV and watching it in a week, on a laptop in their bedroom (critiquing every episode by text with a friend as they go). Why are they even interested that their friend Vanessa had a poached egg on toast at that trendy breakfast spot 10 minutes ago, let alone wanting to see a photograph of it.
The world has changed as it always does, and you better either get on board and go for the ride of your life, or gather moss very quickly in a lonely corner.
All that waxed lyrical, there is a purpose behind my illustrating change. We are all a product of our formative years, those which we then defend with vigor against the evils of progress.
“I don’t know why I can’t speak to a bank teller anymore”, I tell my wife as I draw some cash out of the auto teller on a Sunday arvo, “so inconvenient”.
“Who cares what Vanessa had for brekky” I say to my daughter as I admire the arrangement of parsley atop the beautifully crafted egg on sour dough toast (“mmm, looks pretty good”), “what coffee shop was that?”
Hey young fella, I love the fact your different…
If you’re a manager, the number one thing you have to know for ensuring employee engagement is that you need to adapt your style and to appreciate and embrace the differences in generations. Generation’s change, but you can’t change generations.
At work, we all experience the same generational friction as we do at home. We continually question the motives of those from the other side, the dark side of the generational boundary. If you’re a baby boomer, don’t think for a moment that Gen Y isn’t perplexed and bewildered by your behavior.
Are you running a one size fits all engagement strategy?
Do you have a hugely diverse team, age, gender, culture?
At work, we need to understand and appreciate what makes each of the Gen types tick. What motivates and demotivates them? and to tailor our management styles and strategies to suit.
What are these generations?
- 1927-1945 – Silent Generation or Traditionalists
- 1946-1964 – Baby Boomers
- 1965-1983 – Gen X or the Busters
- 1984- 2002 – Gen Y or the Millennials
- 2003- Current – Gen Z or the Digital Generation
And what are the simple characteristics we can recognise?
Let’s focus on the Boomers, X and Y. I hope you don’t have any Z’s working for you.
Baby Boomers are motivated by salary. They either like to, or feel compelled by ethic, to work long hours. They’ll stay in the company if the pay is right and they feel recognised and appreciated for their experience and contribution. They believe in the value of loyalty to the corporation. They communicate by telephone and emails and aspire to a brilliant career (their idea of a successful life).
Gen X would be quite happy to have an office at home and to have a flexible work schedule to balance up the family life. Security of work is important to them, but given their place in the life-cycle, which in many cases is a nest full of kids at home, a significant mortgage and a renovation on the way, then that’s no surprise. They’ll stay with you if they feel secure and well or fairly paid. Gen X will generate their own materials (papers, spreadsheets etc), use a mobile phone and laptop. They are comfortable on the web (Google), and they will work long hours from home. They like to move about, job-to-job, company-to-company. Moving about quickly to demonstrate agility and adaptability replaced the defining characteristic of loyalty of the Baby Boomers, which Boomers were applauded and rewarded for.
Gen Y is really quite happy to work from home, or probably a café. Technology is no barrier to them. They are having a social life in person and over the net (this very minute), and they want the flexibility to fit that into their schedule. They want you to tell them how they are doing so give them plenty of feedback. They are the generation where participation was celebrated equally with winning. They want to have a personal relationship. Expect them to sidle up for a frank, man to man/ woman-to-woman conversation unimpeded by 30 years difference in experience. After all, that’s how we behave at home now. They are all over documents, databases, programs and apps. They are networking in ways we can only aspire to. They are connected to the WWW and available 24/7 by text.
How do we engage each of the generations?
In the end, it’s all about the result. Allow different people to achieve the result taking the path that is most comfortable for them. “Ye take the high road, and I’ll take the low…..”.
Across the generations.
Everyone has something to offer in this process. Older staff can mentor younger staff and younger staff should be encouraged to seek out this opportunity. Younger staff have energy, enthusiasm and can really spark up ideas, meetings, innovation. Older staff should embrace this energy and enthusiasm and feed it into the energy grid.
Engaging Baby boomers
Recognise their skills and experience. Titles that reflect their position and status are meaningful to the boomers. Encourage them and support them in mentoring junior staff. Support their desire to be affiliated with associations and to make a contribution beyond the company, to industry. Challenge them with new projects that recognise their experience and involve them in the decision-making process and setting directions. Baby boomers are still of the loyalty generations so treat them with fairness and respect/recognise their loyalty. Create opportunities for flexible hours that allow a semi retirement option.
Engaging Generation X
Keep Gen X clear of the corporate politics. Allow them to question authority and experts, and to debate policy and directives. They come from a generation of activists. They like to work independently. They need clear and concise, unambiguous goals to work toward. Allow them flexibility for work life balance, be considerate of the dynamic aspects of their stage of life. When they leave work each day, they are often cooks, cleaners, coaches, taxi drivers, PTA representatives and much more.
Engaging Gen Y
Gen Y thrives on a challenge. Set them a stretch goal (and support them of course). Give them a special project and let them report back to the team. They are great networkers, so they like to work in a team. Don’t send them off to a corner for a 3 month assignment all alone. Reduce formal meetings and structures. Open plan offices with open plan approaches to tasks and collaboration is the way to go.
One size never fits all, not even within a generation
After all this, people are still individuals, and we need to mould our style to fit the characteristics and the idiosyncrasies of individuals. Fortunately, that’s what makes managing people so fascinating.