Leveraging Generational Diversity

By: Misti Burmeister


With 2006 underway and the Baby Boomers beginning their move into retirement, many companies are searching for ways to attract, retain and motivate the next generation of leaders. The more seasoned generations have an incredible amount of experience and expertise, while the younger generations are techno literate and eager to learn. The opportunities for collaboration and growth are tremendous.

The more seasoned generations have an opportunity to share their expertise and aid in the development of the next generation of leaders. Likewise, the younger generations have in front of them an opportunity to learn from the experiences of the generation that came before them.

That being said, why aren’t the more seasoned generations sharing their expertise and mentoring the youngest generations? Why aren’t the youngest generation employees reaching out for mentorship? Why are the younger generations jumping from job to job – from company to company? Why is there such a disconnect between generations? Why are companies spending so much money on training their new hires, just to turn around and watch them leave to work for other companies?

Fostering a work environment in which employees from a variety of generations can work in partnership toward the achievement of the company mission, grow together and learn from each other, while reaching their individual goals, requires awareness and understanding. Each generation has unique work ethics, diverse perspectives on work and life, distinct preferred ways of being managed, individual styles and unique ways of viewing such work-world issues as quality, service and showing up for work.

Managing The Generation Gap

Silent Generation:

  • Assets: stable, detail oriented, thorough, loyal, hard working
  • Liabilities/Challenges: inept with ambiguity and change, reluctant to buck the system, uncomfortable with conflict, reticent when they disagree

Baby Boomers:

  • Assets: service oriented, driven, willing to “go the extra mile,” good at relationship, desire to please, good team players
  • Liabilities/Challenges: not naturally “budget minded,” uncomfortable with conflict, reluctant to go against peers, may put process ahead of results, overly sensitive to feedback, judgmental of those who see things differently, self-centered

Generation X:

  • Assets: adaptable, technoliterate, independent, unintimidated by authority, creative
  • Liabilities/Challenges: impatient, poor people skills, inexperienced, cynical

Generation Y:

  • Assets: optimism, tenacity, heroic spirit, multitasking capabilities, technologically savvy
  • Liabilities/Challenges: need for supervision and structure, inexperience – particularly with handling difficult people issues

Ultimately, How Can the Generations Understand Each Other Better?

Employees from all levels and each generation within the organization must be formally trained in generational workplace dynamics. Once individuals from the various generations understand each other, they can discuss those differences openly, identify strengths and weaknesses, and successfully plan for the most effective way to reach desired goals.

When Silents and Boomers take the time to understand Xers and Yers, and Xers and Yers take time to understand Silents and Boomers, the respective contributions will bring extraordinary results.

If you and/or the leadership of your organization want to learn more about leveraging generational differences – or supplement the work you are doing internally – visit www.inspirioninc.com for information on our workshops and coaching solutions. Inspirion Inc provides workshops and one-on-one leadership coaching solutions that deliver results for people, performance and shareholder value.

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