Generational Leadership: How to Help Your Employees Reach Others

Generational differences in the workplace can cause communications difficulties. For most of us, our sales and marketing margin of error – no matter how low – is unacceptable in today’s business culture. Compound that percentage by adding generational gaps to the equation and you’ve got a marketing and/or workplace situation that needs to be managed; quickly.

The Generational Communication Gap

Most people are aware of the overall differences between generations of workers. Millennials’ work ethics are just as strong (maybe stronger) than Great-Grandad (Traditionalist generation), who never missed a day of work during his 50 years on the General Motors production line.

If it was “just” manufacturing or production, the age differences might not offer so much discrepancy. Today’s workplace can employ a wide range of people from Boomers to GenXers to Millennials. To isolate the real difference, “Let’s call it a ‘communication gap,’ ” says Training magazine.

Professional values, career expectations, and in the case of technology – supply and demand – are revolutionizing workplaces today. (Businesses are scrambling for cyber-smart Integrated Technology professionals like never before.) Seventy-five-year-olds are younger than ever, and many of them are still running the show. Millennial customer service reps are working closely with Baby Boomer customers.

It’s not a problem, per se; but it needs attention. At the core of the solution is leadership-based communication. Once your management team understands the importance of effective communication to drive workplace interactions, sales, purchasing...everything: the positive trickle-down effect will be rapid and rewarding.

What Are the Conflicts, Anyway?

It’s not an all-out war. You’ll notice subtle differences in the way your teams interact. You might see:

  • Discounting – A tendency to overlook the strengths different age groups bring to the table
  • Immovability – Unwilling to make behavioral adjustments to accommodate the overall good
  • Lack of trust – People can be suspicious of what they don’t understand; trust issues

What Do They Want?

  • Traditionalists (born 1945 and before) want to feel needed.
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964) view organizational charts as one, long, horizontal line. They challenge authority.
  • Generation X (1965-1980) value a work/life balance. With this generation, staying with one company forever was no longer that important.
  • Millennials (1981-1996) value a work/life balance even more. Career-wise, Millennials will keep moving to find a workplace that challenges them and offers ongoing education. Communication and feedback is critical to this generation.

The first Post-Millennials are now 23 years old...stay tuned.

What We (and You) Can Do

Now more than ever, the don’t-make-assumptions rule should be leadership’s focus. Ask your team how a situation should be handled…then listen longer and listen better to their responses. Consider the answers and not the employee's age. (This works both ways. We tend to over-value older, more experienced people. They make mistakes, too.)

Here are some additional tips:

  • Make generational differences a source of pride and productivity. You don’t have to “celebrate” differences, but a culture of respect is always necessary. At every age we can serve as teacher or student without stereotypes. Techno-gurus can help train software app newbies; experienced, process-knowledgeable workers can explain “why” we do what we do to rookies.
  • Reinforce the company’s brand; its core values. In addition to what’s best for our team, expand to include the business holistically.
  • There’s no one “right” way, sometimes. We’re all wired differently and may need to get from point A to point B by individual routes. Finding solutions requires some flexibility.
  • Think “diversity.” Considerations for other cultures and their norms transfer beautifully to generational communication. Appreciate generational diversity and find ways to properly approach employees or handle difficult situations in a way that complements their individual mindsets.

Make your organization one of the best places to work because of the people there.

Leadership Training: Across Generations

Infotec training offers workplace solutions for every level of operations. If you are considered about generational communication, whether between employees or employees and customers, we can help you work through issues and see how workers can be more effective in their jobs. Contact us today for more information!

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