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How to Bridge the Generation Gap in the Workplace

May 9, 2018

 

In today's world, there is routinely a lot of talk about the millennial generation, which happens for several reasons. Mostly we like to do the easy thing, which is to point out the negative aspects of the generation and the insufficiencies they bring as a stereotype. But also, many employers face challenges with millennials on their teams. More than 33% of our current workforce is made up by millennials, and by 2025 that number will increase to more than 75% of our workforce. So we must be able to understand how to find the rockstars among their generation, as well as how to hire them, retain them, and capitalize off them in our operations.

 

The great news about this is that the rockstar millennials are actually better than us at many things. You read that right, they are better than the previous generations at many things. You've also heard the saying that "birds of a feather flock together" and that is true for these standout millennial performers. If you have one on your team, they will attract others. The only drawback is, that saying is true for the dud millennials too. 

 

You can often tell if you have a rockstar millennial on your team because they have an extreme distaste for the word millennial and hate being included in that category. Some will even disassociate with the dud millennials they know because they give their generation a bad name. I once had a person tell me that the phrase "rockstar millennial" is a strong word for them, and it is. But if you had worked with the rockstar millennials I have and watch their demeanor when I bring up the word millennial, they despise it and they deserve better.

 

So how can the rest of us non-millennials, those who fall into Gen-X or the Baby Boomer generation, better understand our weaknesses, downfalls, and our must-do's to collaborate and embrace the millennial generation? In my opinion, we must focus internally at our own generation instead of trying to change the millennial workforce. And this applies to our businesses, our volunteer organizations, and even our customers.

 

Weaknesses of Gen-X and Boomers -

 

Communication – We suck at it, and have to get better. Millennials want to talk, just accept that. They crave feedback, involvement, and ownership of their job functions.

 

Building Trust – We often break trust in little ways when millennials trust very little to begin with. More communication and transparency will also help build trust.

 

Building Culture and Purposeful Leadership – Millennials want to be a part of something bigger. They are motivated by feeling part of a mission more than feeling part of making profit for the company.

 

Change and Killing Sacred Cows – We must be open to (and looking for) ways to challenge how we have done things in the past. We must accept that inevitably there will be opportunities to do it better, more efficiently, or more cost effectively. And it may require technology, and that's a good thing! 

 

Must Do's for Gen-X and Boomer Generations – 

 

We must always explain “why” instead of just making demands.

 

Give routine feedback, both positive and negative.  Don’t wait, do it now.

 

Do not waste their time. They are very guarded of their time and move on quickly if bored.

 

We must teach, show, and help them experience failure. Let them skin their knees but be there to pick them back up. The “everyone gets a trophy" mentality created this scared-to-death-of-failure issue with millennials.

 

Be crystal clear with every single expectation, job description, contract, etc.

 

Foster respect between all generations, not animosity. Again, communication is key.

 

These ideas can be a mountainous challenge for us to understand and execute. I have been "climbing the mountain" but am near the top. We must accept that every single generation has weaknesses and strengths, and identifying the other groups' weaknesses doesn't move the organization forward unless you play to their strengths as well. We must all take the opportunity to look in the mirror, recognize the challenges, and work toward solutions rather than focusing  on the things we dislike. I love rockstar millennials and have worked hard to surround myself with them! Keep at it! #ChangingLives #LeadershipThursday

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