Monday, January 15, 2007

Overcoming Intergenerational Differences in the Workplace

Writing in Jugglezine about how the generations are going at over work protocols, Matt Viland notes that while the employees of today's workforce--who range in age from under 21 to over 65--can bring a variety of perspectives together, bridging generational differences can be quite a challenge. Under the previous paradigm, young folks held entry level jobs and old folks did the managing. Now, as a result of orporate mergers and downsizing, workforces have redistributed and hierarchies have changed--"Older folks, laid off from previous jobs, began seeking entry level positions after switching careers. Younger folks, considerably cheaper than their elders, rose to the top. The result: a generational melting pot."

Viland points to workplace communication as perhaps being the most obvious difference among the generations. Cam Marston, president of Marston Communications, points out that older employees prefer face-to-face contact, while younger generations embrace less personal options such as e-mail, text messages, and instant messenger. Other differences can be found in work style:
Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, for instance, are accustomed to a workday that revolves around the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Gen Xers and Millenials, on the other hand, might take three or four hours of personal time in the middle of the day, but log on from home after dinner and put in the hours they missed.
According to Viland, the first step to overcoming these differences (and others, such as language) is to raise awareness about the things that make each age group unique. This can be done by incorporating age sensitivity into more comprehensive diversity training efforts. Another way to overcome the gap between generations is to embrace it by adopting programs such as reverse mentoring, through which younger employees coach older ones on technological innovations.

Source: Jugglezine "Mixing it Up" (January 10, 2007)

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