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Generations File

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In today’s workplace, employees are from three different generations; Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennia’s. All three generations have strengths and weaknesses. How would you form a team to take advantage of the differences in these generations? Please make your initial post by midweek, and respond to at least one other student’s post by the end of the week. As the Baby Boomer generation nears retirement age, business is already confronting the transition to younger workers who, generational theorists argue1, have their own values and assumptions about workplace behavior. At the same time, numerous news stories and even a handful of research reports argue that younger workers don’t hold the same set of professional and ethical standards as their predecessors, that values and appropriate professional behaviors are no longer “givens.”2 Many business leaders are wondering how to ensure that the generational divide doesn’t cause miscommunication, hinder performance, and—worst of all—put their company at risk.

The first step to addressing the challenge of generational differences in the workplace is to have a better understanding of the three primary3 generations in the workforce: Millennia’s, Generation X, and Baby Boomers. Each generation has been shaped by wa¬tershed moments in its formative years, demographic trends, and cultural phenomena. And each generation comes to work with a characteristic set of skills and challenges that impact employing companies and have the potential to help or hinder relationships with managers and coworkers. The table below offers a portrait of each generation, including its attributes and beliefs about work. •The Baby Boomer – Here I have Raul, my General Manager.

It’s best to allow Raul to have total rule as far as communicating to his flock. I allow him to decide which the best communication tool is, even if that tool means utilizing more than one so everyone “gets it.” Instead of relying on technology advancements, Raul asks for and expects assistance from Gen X and Millennials on the best way to utilize our systems. Because of the coolness of the Baby Boomer, Raul is good at conflict and seeing both sides, so he is my employee moderator so to speak. Although he may not have the “long story” to delight customers as Raul does, he does offer a calming effect so I know he is trusted by both employees and customers. •The Gen X – Yvonne is my Gen Xer and my personal assistant. Because of her technology knowledge, I allowed her to set up interoffice email communication as well as training.

She is responsible for our website and office design. Yvonne is best at her work when I offer a cash goal such as, “If we get this system in place by month end, that’s more money for you.” Because Gen Exers are great at multi-tasking, I know if I ask her to communicate my instructions while completing other tasks, everyone will know where I stand on a certain issue by day end. •The Millennial – Here I have Bob who LOLs and OMGs all day long. He is the first one to make everyone laugh and is my Internet Sales guy. Because he can think outside of the box, he makes our Internet sales creative and offers simple explanations through the technology at hand. Because Bob works well with everyone, I allow him to offer suggestions and analyze situations, which he is able to do quickly. THE MILLENNIALS

Baby boomers are currently the largest generation of active workers. Research has shown that boomers identify their strengths as organizational memory, optimism, and their willingness to work long hours. This generation grew up in organizations with large corporate hierarchies, rather than flat management structures and teamwork-based job roles. Millennials have a drastically different outlook on what they expect from their employment experience. Millennials are well educated, skilled in technology, very self-confident, able to multi-task, and have plenty of energy.

They have high expectations for themselves, and prefer to work in teams, rather than as individuals. Millennials seek challenges, yet work life balance is of utmost importance to them. They do, however, realize that their need for social interaction, immediate results in their work, and desire for speedy advancement may be seen as weaknesses by older colleagues. The millennial generation is the largest age group to emerge since the baby boom generation, and as this group grows significantly as a proportion of the workforce over the next 20 years, employers will need to make major adjustments in their engagement models. Motivating, engaging, and retaining people will never cease as managerial priorities, but employers will have to carefully consider what strategies they will use to cultivate and retain valuable millennial employees now and into the future?

Millennials are creating a change in how work gets done, as they work more in teams and use more technology. Their social mindset, however, is also a significant factor. As Leigh Buchanon writes in Meet the Millennials, “One of the characteristics of millennials, besides the fact that they are masters of digital communication, is that they are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70 percent say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities.” Coupled with the socially minded millennial comes their desire to be creative. Millennials have grown up in a time where information has become available instantly. Through a Google or Wikipedia search, answers to even quite complicated questions can be found. As such, millennials have developed into a group that wants to work on new and tough problems, and ones that require creative solutions. In a 2009 article by Tamara Erickson, a millennial who had been struggling in her role, admitted to peers that, “I guess I just expected that I would get to act on more of my ideas, and that the higher ups here would have figured out by now that the model’s changing.” (Gen Y in the Workforce, Tamara Erickson, Harvard Business Review, February 2009)

The millennial employee is interested in feedback on his or her performance. But traditional semi-annual reviews are too infrequent for millennials. They want to know that they’ve done a good job, and they want to know now. A 2008 article in Nonprofit World provides readers with a checklist on the topic of providing millennial feedback. The list includes: give them checklists, offer plenty of help, reward them for innovating and taking appropriate risks, engage them with frequent feedback, provide them with mentors, create a collegial and team-oriented culture, etc.

Feedback must also be given in such a way that millennials are receptive. Not only are the timing and frequency important, but so too is the way in which feedback is framed and delivered. In Joanne Sujanski’s article “Don’t be so touchy! – The secret to giving feedback to millennials,” she writes, “Instead of feeling appreciated, however, the few short accolades of “good job” were overshadowed in the employee’s mind by the more frequent criticisms he received – without guidance as to how exactly he could improve.” (SuperVision, December 2009). Sujanski reaches an insightful conclusion: Whether positive or negative, feedback needs to be structured in a way that leaves no room for misunderstanding. Feedback needs to be clear and specific to be effective.

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