For decades there has been a symbiotic relationship between the senior members of an organization and the young guns coming up the ranks.
The older generation brings knowledge and experience to the table and the young people bring energy, enthusiasm and fresh ideas. Today, there is a new dynamic as Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 begin to work alongside Millennials born between 1977 and 1994).
Growing up, the Baby Boomers were greatly influenced by the media and the concept of “The American Dream.” They were taught that anything is possible if they worked hard enough. They possess a strong work ethic and tend to put in long hours to establish “self-worth.” As a result, the balance between work and family often favors the workplace. This generation has been viewed as being greedy, materialistic and ambitious.
In contrast, the Millennials have a different outlook on employment and success. They are technology babies who grew up in a world of school shootings, terrorist attacks, AIDS, and rapidly depleting natural resources. They view themselves as more socially conscious than the Boomers and their success in the workplace is only one piece of the puzzle for them.
Millennials typically will not work long hours at the sacrifice of their personal life. They strive for the balance of work, life, community involvement and self- development. This generation’s members will not stay at work until 9 p.m. in order to impress the boss; rather, they will leave the office so they can pursue their personal interests. Flex time, job sharing and sabbaticals are the norm. Millennials believe that because of technology, they can work anytime and from anyplace and should not be evaluated on how, what, and where they got the job done.
Because these two generations are wired so differently, the millennial mindset is difficult for the Boomers to understand. Their generation wears their long work hours as a badge of honor and views leaving the office early as a sign of disrespect for the organization.
Also, Boomers believe in face-to-face engagement and as such participate in many more meetings with clients and employees than Millennials.
Boomers use the telephone more frequently, believing that it establishes a more solid relationship with clients and colleagues than emailing. Millennials prefer digital interaction to face-to-face engagement. Why waste time on the telephone or with a meeting when you can just as easily text, email or Skype? These differences in communication styles often lead to miscommunication.
Thousands of times every day, a Boomer is calling a Millennial on the phone and the Millennial is texting back.
There are even bigger problems in management and motivation. Baby Boomers’ primary motivation is monetary, and they are comfortable with annual performance reviews coupled with salary increases.
Millennials often require constant feedback on their performance and desire speedy advancement. They are unwilling to wait a year to be reviewed. They work better in a team-oriented culture and they will do well if they believe they are doing good. For Millennials, making money is not enough. They want to be involved in an organization that is socially conscious and civic minded and that values creativity.
The Millennial generation was one of the first to be raised in a “child focused world.” As young children, their parents invited them to play a lead role in the family, including participating in purchasing decisions and travel plans. As a result, this generation is self-confident with high expectations. They expect their careers to provide both monetary and creative fulfillment. They are much more likely to change jobs if they are creatively or intellectually dissatisfied than Boomers are. Boomers tend to stay in jobs that do not fulfill them provided the pay and benefits are satisfactory.
Boomers and Millennials were raised in generations that were very different in terms of historical context, technology and media.
As products of their time they have divergent values and world views. However, it is important to the success of your organization that you understand the differences between the two generations and make the necessary workplace adjustments for each.
It is through this process that your business will run the most efficiently and successfully and you will maximize the productivity of your workforce.
• Lisa Spiwak is a partner with the firm Spiwak & Iezza in Thousand Oaks. Reach her a [email protected]