Secrets to Close the Generation Gap
Meagan and Larry Johnson are a daughter-father team of corporate trainers who teach their clients better ways to manage their company cultures. In their book Generations, Inc., the Johnsons offer managers and business leaders a helpful guide to the differences and similarities of the five generations they might encounter in their workplaces and the ways they can work through common conflicts to create productive and harmonious teams.
The youngest generational group is made up of those they call Linksters. Born after 1995 and 20 million strong, the oldest teens among this generation are just beginning to enter the workforce as part-time employees and summer help. Unlike the rest of us, this generation was born into a world already connected by the Internet. These people are technologically savvy, they care deeply about the world and they want to make it a better place. To manage individuals from this generation, the Johnsons write, remember to give them clear job descriptions so they will understand what is expected of them. Since they are used to instant gratification, provide them with steady feedback that makes them feel valued and connected to the organization.
Understanding Generations Y and X
The generation that preceded the Linksters is Generation Y. These 70.4 million people were born between 1980 and 1995, and they have often been called the Echo Boom Generation because they make up such a huge percentage of the population (26 percent) like the Baby Boomers. Unlike the job-hopping Generation Xers who came before them, those from Generation Y are looking for more job security in a company that provides job advancement opportunities. The Johnsons write that those from Generation Y react well to managers who create opportunities for teamwork and bonding, they like it when they are told exactly where they stand and they appreciate challenging work and flexible schedules.
Those from Generation X were born between 1966 and 1980. Since almost half had mothers with jobs outside the home and 40 percent came home from school with no one to greet them, they developed very independent spirits. The Johnsons write that managers are wise to allow Generation Xers to solve their own problems, since they’ve been doing that since they were young. And since they watched as parents and friends’ parents lost their jobs in the 1990-1991 recession, they are a little cynical about any talk of company loyalty. The Johnsons write that three ways to manage Generation Xers are to recognize them individually rather than as a group, create teams of them where there is mutual drive and respect and offer some flexibility in their schedules so they can exercise their independent, can-do spirit.
Those in the generation that came before Generation X were the Baby Boomers. From 1945 until 1965, the largest generation on record was born. Thanks to the GI Bill, more Boomers went to college than any previous generation. Since Boomers are working longer than previous generations, the Johnsons suggest that managers do the following when working with them: engage them, but don’t hold their hands; make them mentors; ask them to commit themselves to their jobs in more creative ways to keep them stimulated; and don’t give up on them, because they may be around longer than you expect.
The Legacy of Traditionals
The oldest generation of employees is the group called the Traditional Generation. This generation was born between 1918 and 1945, is 52 million strong and still represents 8 percent of the workforce. Although their numbers are declining, the Johnsons write, they still make great contributions to the talent pool. By recruiting these people, managers will find loyal and productive people with great experience. Making them mentors, teaching them new skills, recognizing their contributions and giving them one-on-one support can create reliable and hardworking employees.
As a guide to managing the generations, Generations, Inc., offers organizational leaders a well-organized toolkit for building teams with employees of all ages. The benefits of taking the Johnsons’ advice are endless, and all managers can improve their work by putting the multitude of tips and techniques they offer into action.