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Generations in the Workplace

Kudos to the Business Record and Merit Resources for bringing in David Stillman of Bridgeworks to Photo_david2 discuss Bridging the generation gaps at work. David's lively presentation covered the nuances of the four prevailing generations in the workforce, while at the same time providing insight and solutions that workplaces should be implementing. Stillman was in town to promote his new book "The M-Factor." Stillman's presentation analyzed each of the four generations their influences and traits, and pinpointed areas of engagement for each.

Traditionalist - Influenced by roaring 20s, Great Depression, World War II, patriotism, loyalty, conservative, and have faith in institutions. Stillman pointed out that most workplace culture is based on Traditionalist influences. The key take away was that the legacy of traditionalist can not be dismissed. While it may appear traditionalist don't like change, a look at their historic experience says otherwise. They can accept change if it is an evolutionary change rather than a revolutionary change, or something that builds on their legacy rather than dismisses it.

Baby Boomers - influenced by Vietnam, Watergate, civil rights, suburbia. Stillman pointed out the 80 million boomers in this demographic has forced them to be competitive in order to stand out from their peers. Growing up in an amazing time, they wanted to, and and still want to do, amazing things. They are masters at internal politics, but flunk at delegating. Aging parents and close knit relationship with their kids has made them a very needed generation, but it has also caused some burnout. Reminding these workers how their work is having a positive impact on not only the job, but themselves and the world will go a long way with keeping Boomers happy.

Generation X - Grew up during a period with high divorce rates, more than 23,000 hours of TV viewing per person and the personal computer. This generation, while often chided as lazy, slacking and pessimistic, doesn't see itself that way. A very self reliant, resourceful and eclectic group, Xers have supply and demand on their side. The relatively few 45 million of them has allowed the group to be less competitive and more independent. Their experiences  have caused them to be more skeptical and rightfully so. Stillman encourages work places to embrace this skepticism, for there is at least a kernel of truth in it usually.  And while members of Generation X are realistic in their understanding that Boomers are not going anywhere so their chances of vertical movement are limited. there is an innate desire to still move, to still learn, to still grow. Providing Xers with more frequent feedback, keeping opportunities for professional development and allowing for additional opportunities to move laterally within the company may satisfy Generation X's workplace need.

Millennials - Influenced by terrorism, technology and their Baby Boomer parents. Concerned about global outlook, more collaborative. We've touched on many of their traits, concerns, and approaches in this blog before, so I won't rehash any of those, except one. Stillman did emphasize that with this group meaning matters, and being able to demonstrate how their job helps accomplish the larger mission goes a long way with this generation that is apt to give back. He also encouraged workers to allow Millennials to be part of the decision making process, even if their approach is naive it still creates an opportunity for them to learn and be mentored.

Great insights from a team I consider the best on the subject of generational behavior. This event was more broad based than the last time Bridgeworks was in town with their Millennial speaker Seth.  It would have been interesting If the two could have switched with David coming to the Power Breakfast and Seth speaking at this event, given the marketed focus of each event. More Millennials and Gen X young professionals need to hear these insights, but at this time and place in their career it might be tough for them to attend events like these on a weekday morning. But scheduling events like these with high demand speakers are never easy. It would also have been nice if Mr. Stillman could have stayed longer for followup and questions. But again, scheduling events like these with high demand speakers are never easy.

Kudos again to the Business Record for bringing him in.


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I read "The M-Factor" and it is a great book. I hope at least some of those things is true. We wait for one more this year.

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