Generations collide, collaborate at work

Generations collide, collaborate at work

This year, Millennials will overtake Baby Boomers as the largest living generation and will represent the majority of the workforce, leading to an even greater disparity of values, attitudes, aspirations and communication styles in today's multigenerational workplace — and calling for new management styles and strategies.

Dubbed "the trophy generation" because of their reputation for having been constantly rewarded as children, Millennials are often misunderstood by more tradition-oriented Boomers, according to Sarah Sladek, founder of management consulting firm XYZ University, who led "Generations at Work: From Boom to Z," the first of six webinars in the NEW Multigenerational Leadership Series, May 14.

Baby Boomers "want to do everything face to face," Sladek said, while Millennials' post-Industrial-era mindset says, "I can work wherever I want. Not being face to face doesn't mean I'm not working."

Millennials use technology and communicate differently than their older peers, Sladek told 100 NEW members who participated in the live webinar. "Generation X wants you to make it short. Generation Y wants details, instructions, feedback — and they love it."

Each generation has its own attitudes toward work and life, Sladak said:

  • Baby Boomers are motivated by salary
  • Generation X wants work-life balance
  • Generation Y seeks happiness

As for what they want in a leader:

  • Baby Boomers respond most highly to someone experienced and reliable
  • Generation X values a leader who is honest and motivational
  • Generation Y wants a leader to be honest and innovative

The up-and-coming Generation Z (those born 1995 and onward) is approaching the workforce with even higher expectations to align their personal experiences and values with the workplace. "They're like Generation Y on steroids,'" Sladek said. "They've been raised only on technology and expect companies to be diverse and inclusive."

Sladek recommends reverse mentoring — with younger generations helping older generations learn new skills — to build stronger multigenerational relationships. "Meet monthly, switch roles, switch again," Sladek advised. "Have the idea of being 'lunch buddies.'"

Sladek encouraged participants to ask themselves: "Which areas in our company do we need to change or improve to successfully engage employees of all ages?"

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