Friday, February 24, 2012

Generation Next - not the enemy.

My sister-in-law is a human relations executive for a large insurance company. She has become somewhat of an expert in generational training. We are living in a time when three generations are together in the workforce. Each brings different experiences and assumptions. Millennials (born between 1980 and 1995 are in their late teens and 20s), Gen Xers (born in the early 1960s through the early 1980s are in their 30s to 40s) and Baby Boomers (born after WWII are now in their 50s and 60s).

The challenge for Generation X is that they are wedged between two huge generations competing for the same opportunities. The boomers need to hear the message that they have to start focusing more on coaching rather than bossing as millenials emerge. Millenials will not respond well to “You got to do this. You got to do that.” They will walk and every major company knows this group is the future. That approach will not be effective in retaining and training for the future.

As you'd expect there is a whole industry of consultants and experts. They are ready to show companies how to motivate, train and nurture those who are taking over the workplace. As correspondent Morley Safer first reported in 2007, corporate America is so unnerved by all this that companies like Merrill Lynch, Ernst & Young, and scores of others are hiring consultants to teach them how to deal with this generation that only takes "yes" for an answer. It is fascinating when you think about it. What are the next steps for Boomers?  What role will Gen Xer's have on leadership? How will behaviors and trends of Millenials influence organizations?

The workplace, in some cases, has become a psychological battlefield. Millennials have the upper hand, because they are tech savvy. They have a command of every gadget imaginable from smart phones to tablets. They multitask, talk, walk, listen and text. Boomers are seeing the impact of a challenging economy. Growing numbers of displaced, laid-off and underemployed can’t help but wonder if there is a conspiracy of age-discrimination.

Take a few deep breaths. No matter what generation you belong to, try to remember that we all need to find ways to make our lives meaningful and rewarding. Embrace the differences. Love progress that comes with technology. Life is too short. And finally, fellow boomers, remember: You are not what you do but who you are! 

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