Generations working together |

Generations working together

Sally Roberts

Throughout history older workers have bemoaned the work ethic of the next generation while young workers criticized their elders for hanging on to old ways. Not much has changed.

Or has it?

Jason S. Morga, vice president of Kelly Services Americas Marketing Group, says the pace of technological innovations has created new dynamics in the workplace that make the current multi-generational environment unique.

Morga, coauthor of “Gen Now: Understanding the Multi-gen Workforce and The Coming Leadership Deficit” will speak on the topic at the second annual Nevada Economic Development Conference scheduled Sept. 20-22 at the University of Nevada, Reno.

In the Thursday afternoon breakout session “Gen Now: Managing Today’s Multi-Generational Workforce,” Morga will look at how companies can improve productivity and build talent across the generations.

Each generation has had a different relationship growing up to technological advances, parental oversight, and the effect of social media, he said. Those experiences have influenced their goals, working styles and motivations.

So who are these generations?

Baby Boomers are the generation born after World War II as their parents refocused on family and work, and created the vibrant economic growth of the 1950s and 1960s.

GenerationY, often called Millennials because they were born in one millennium and came of age in the next, are 19-35 years old. For them, computers and cell phones have always been a part of their life. However, as a whole they’ve also grown up in a more dangerous world with tighter parental oversight.

“When I was 8 years old it wasn’t a big deal to be a mile away from home after dark, or to bike ride miles into town,” said Morga, who is a GenXer.

“The way we’re raising our GenY as a society has changed, because society has changed.”

Sandwiched in between Boomers and GenY is GenX — those between 36 and 50 years of age. They are the generation currently in their economic prime, raising kids and watching their parents’ age.

Baby Boomers are “confused by the younger generation coming into the workforce,’ Morga said. “Older generations are stereotypically pointing out the Y generation is not as hardworking, feeling entitled, and wanting more pay for less work. That’s not really true.”

“GenY, over and over and over again, it’s their generation that’s most often judged by the cover of the book.”

Conversely, GenYers say Boomers aren’t interested in change and don’t want to use technology. Also not always true.

“What doesn’t motivate GenY?” Morga said. “It’s not about compensation, money and career advancement. It’s more about meaningful, challenging work. They’re typically willing to give up higher pay for more meaningful work.”

What they do expect in the workplace is technology.

Boomers and GenXers were adults or older children when computers became a business constant and cell phones became common place.

GenYers and today’s children in GenerationZ have used electronics as long as they can remember.

That technology has changed both the way we work and the way we network.

“We are constantly tethered,” Morga said.

Technology also a factor of the modern workplace that helps all the generations achieve a common desire: flexibility.

Baby Boomers are looking for more flexibility to spend more time with their families — especially grandchildren.

GenXers need flexibility to enjoy family life, to watch their children’s baseball games and recitals and visit Mom and Dad regularly.

GenY likes the flexibility to not be locked into an office every day.

The old office environment that said “here’s your cubicle; sit; stay,” limits the flexibility they all seek.

Morga suggested that the word “office” is becoming a verb.

“I office in Delta Sky Club,” he said. “But I also office at Starbucks or office at home.”

Besides the desire for flexibility, Baby Boomers and GenYers also have significant parallels between the two generations, Morga said.

Both are roughly 80 million strong in the United States. GenXers are only half that number.

“Boomers have dominated the workforce and GenY also is going to dominate,” Morga said.

But in the transition, businesses could face a leadership deficit.

As Baby Boomers retire at a rate of about 10,000 a day, there will not be enough GenXers to step into management roles being vacated, he said.

“There’s a handful of GenXers that we consider to be the next leaders,” Morga said. “There’s not enough of them to fill positions. Businesses will fight for the next best new leaders and run out. They’ll reach down to the younger generation.”

GenYers could be pushed out into management positions without adequate training, he said.

The one constant in the workforce is that the generations must work together and, eventually, the baton of leadership gets passed from one generation to the next.

Ultimately, working together as a multi-generational team boils down to what we’ve all been taught from childhood, Morga said: “Treat others like you’d like to be treated.”


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