Today’s work force is clearly a multigenerational one. Listen in on a brainstorming meeting at a typical office and you may hear rad, sweet, awesome, or super, all meaning, simply, great idea, and all words that are more commonly used among one age group than another.
Here’s who could be among your colleagues and clients today:
Traditionalists (born before 1945): 10 percent
Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964): 45 percent
Gen-Xers (born 1965 to 1980): 30 percent
Gen-Y/Millennials (born 1981 to 1999): 15 percent
Of course, it’s not just verbiage that differs among the four distinct generations. You may find differentiation in ethics, time management, emotional displays, trust, and loyalty. And since companies across industries include a mix of ages among their employees, it’s no surprise that many of them are thirsty for information on how to bridge gaps and keep workers both productive and satisfied.
Multigenerational speakers at meetings and training events can help. These speakers may be brought in to discuss the general reality of 20-somethings and 70-somethings working side by side, or they may focus on specific concerns such as ethics. They bring a great deal of value (and humor) to meetings, with the goal of improving understanding, communication, and job performance.
Ethics expert Frank Bucaro, for example, often speaks about how different generations view accepted attitudes and actions, even to the extent of having their own definition of “getting to work on time.” He feels much of this has to do with the use of technology, and different views on the importance of achieving work/life balance.
For instance, a millennial (Gen-Y) worker may wake up, work from home for two hours, go to the gym, then get to the office at 9:30 a.m. Traditionalists, who have been at their desks since 8:30, may view this as slacking. Similarly, a Gen-Xer may leave work early to attend a child’s sporting event, knowing he can check voice mail and e-mail during the game. A baby boomer, on the other hand, may forgo the game to ensure she remains competitive at the workplace.
In a recent USA Today article titled “‘Self-Centered’ Work Ethic Hinders Young Employees,” Cam Marston, speaker and writer on generational issues, defended younger workers. “They want to get the job done, then put it behind them and enjoy life,” he said, noting that this is not a bad thing, just a generational way millenials view work.
In addition to different views among workers, businesses have to face the multigenerational needs of their clients, particularly in the financial planning and insurance industries. “Finances are very personal and involve a high level of trust,” explains Kim Lear, professional speaker and generational expert with consulting firm Bridgeworks. “However, trusting financial planners means different things to each generation, as does valuing money.”
Lear comments that many millennials have seen their parents spend their lives working endless hours and saving as much money as possible, only to have had it all wash away in the recent recession. This has a tremendous impact on how these young workers earn, save, and invest—and financial planners have to adjust.
Multigenerational speakers can explain how to define expectations, behaviors, and workload management among the different age groups in the office. They provide guidance, research, relevance—and a little hope—on the topic of bringing the generations together. They may even help meeting attendees chillax and realize that being called funkadelic is actually good.
It’s a generational thing.
Diane Goodman, CMP, is president of The Goodman Speakers Bureau, based in Windsor, Conn., and can be reached at (800) 875-2893. She is author of “Survive the Search: A Guide to Finding the Right Professional Speaker.”