The Intergenerational Challenge: Change is Coming, Are You Ready?
As a Dallas Change Keynote Speaker, one topic I am frequently asked to present is the challenge of the “blended office,” the so-called intergenerational office. It’s a mixed blessing of challenges, but also tremendous upside.
The intergenerational office is more than saying, “We’ve got young guys and old guys.” In fact, there are five groups in the modern office setting, with each group having varying values, work methods, work philosophies and life experiences. The groups are usually labeled “Traditionalists,” those born before 1945; “Baby Boomers,” from 1946 to 1964; “Generation X,” 1965 to 1980; “Millennials,” from 1981 to 1995; and “Generation Z,” from 1996 to 2012.
Placing these age groups in the same work environment may bring problems unless an effort is made to not only appreciate what each group has to offer but to find ways in which they can best work together.
An online article from Kelly Business Services entitled “Three Common Multi-Generational Workplace Problems (And How to Solve Them)” lists three primary problems: negative stereotypes, different work styles and communication difficulties. For example, Boomers often view Millennials as lazy, whiny, unable to make decisions and unfocused. However the judgment is hardly one-sided.
According to a piece in Business Insider (May 31, 2018), Millennials view Boomers as having no regard for social issues, prodding younger generations to take workaholism to the next level, emphasizing grades and performance above experience and calling the shots on pensions long after they are paying into the funds.
Workstyles vary widely from group to group. Boomers aspire to corner offices, leading the charge, talking on the phone or sending emails. Millennials crave open workspaces, work groups, text messaging and a variety of communications platforms. Millennials may be actively involved in social and environmental issues. Market research shows they are more open and accepting of co-workers than any generation prior to theirs.
The Strength of the Intergenerational Workforce
In leading change workshops in Dallas, when I point out the differences from group to group, I am often met with head-scratching and head-shaking.
“Mike, are you saying we should give up and just make the best of an impossible situation?”
Absolutely the opposite!
In fact, there is tremendous strength in an intergenerational office. Forbes (October 20, 2017), in an article entitled “Why A Multigenerational Workforce Is A Competitive Advantage,” talked of how the generations, if receptive, can learn from one another:
“The Millennials love learning. As a generation that grew up with the internet, they know how to quickly find anything they need to know. Multiple generations in a workplace create an opportunity for people to learn from one another and hear different perspectives on the same ideas.”
The piece points out that Millennials often believe that since they are so adept at digital technologies, they have more to offer in the modern workplace than Xers or Boomers. However, experts quoted in the article state that, “Seasoned employees have a lot more to teach junior employees about business intuition… Business is much more than trends and technology. It’s applied intuition that takes years of experience to develop.”
Workplace change is inevitable, whether in Dallas, Houston or anywhere in the world. How we approach that change is critical. If we are judgmental of one another, negative and closed-minded, we will fail each other as leaders and co-workers. If we are open, accepting and appreciative of one another, our companies will thrive.
Positive change is always the best choice.
Mike Hourigan, Change Management Speaker
For more information on Mike Hourigan’s dynamic Dallas Change keynotes and breakout session training, call him today at: (704) 875-3030 or fill out the contact form on this page.