How a Boomer/Gen X executive thinks:
I was born at the threshold of Gen X. From my perspective as a managing partner at Expressworks and in working with our clients, I am confronted daily by generational “opportunities” as we work to attract, staff, retain and inspire our people. We are enriched by the diversity of talent, generation and skills of our consultants. Each generation has strengths and at times exhibits a generational blindness. Let me share how I view them through my “generational” lens.
Millennials are better prepared for today’s technology-enabled business environment. Their enthusiasm and agility add a lot of energy to team environments. When teaming to build solutions, I’ve seen the following:
- They dive in happily.
- They bail out if they become impatient with the pace of solution-making.
- They dismiss those not moving at their pace.
Sometimes I feel Millennials almost have an expectation of being dismissed by older generations. We are better off when all the generations in a working group take time to value the best balance of pace and thought.
Performance feedback is a very important aspect of working. Many Millennials don’t know what they don’t know. And, extensive remote working can hinder the ability for other generations to provide good feedback. While we will not move away from formal feedback sessions, it is right to want more frequent performance conversations. However, Millennials must share equally the responsibility for seeking out that conversation and hearing it.
Gen Xers have years of solid work experience behind them when they join Expressworks, with 15 or more years to work before retirement. We find that our Gen X consultants reliably provide stability to projects and are known for their experience.
Some Gen Xers can get quite frustrated by the level of client focus given to Millennials, sometimes to their own detriment, especially if they find themselves with a Millennial as a client. Gen Xers and Boomers probably value traditional hierarchy more than Millennials as these generations have been socialized to “wait their turn.”
We are grateful for the boomers who are often extending their careers by joining Expressworks as consultants. They are a resilient and resourceful generation who have decades of experience and wisdom to share. They are also more sanguine in their approach to work, having replaced competition and ambition with love of the work. They are more highly suited to poorly defined work – as their experience helps them navigate the increasingly volatile, uncertain, ambiguous and complex problems found in today’s workplace.
Boomers can sometimes be patronizing to Millennials as they witness the angst and insecurities that they have long left behind. I like to pair these two generations together as they represent complementary strengths – work experience, agility and technological savvy.
I think organizations that are serious about performing well will need to figure out how to leverage generational strengths. In order to get the benefits of generational diversity companies will need to create environments where all can share their ideas in a safe and respectful environment. We’ve found that diverse teams – and by this, I mean the fullest extent that this can be realized, racial, ethnic, age, experience, gender – demonstrate more potential to come up with creative, innovative, and sustainable solutions to address even the most challenging problems.
By listening to all generations, you can help enable your organizations to become more resilient to the constant (and often unexpected) changes we face today.
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