I had lunch this week with a leader-friend of mine who has recently made the shift from CEO to consultant. What he doesn’t miss: The drama that comes with leading in a generational whirlpool.
You’ve heard it before. Today’s workforce is more diverse than ever – with 4, even verging on 5 generations in the workplace at once. My experience working in an organization where 80% of our workforce was Gen Xers and Nexters (aka Millenials), tells me that things aren’t like they used to be. And… It’s a good thing! The ideas and innovation that come with such a diverse mix can be groundbreaking… if it’s harnessed correctly.
According to Linda Duxbury, a University of Carleton professor and expert in organizational health, a generation is formed not because of dates of birth, but rather because of the world events and moments that define their lifetime. At a macro level, life experiences shape our orientation towards the world and our work. Here’s a quick glance at the generations in today’s workforce:
- The Veterans (born just before or during WWII – 59 +)
- The Baby Boom (1947 to 1964)
- The Baby Bust (Generation X) (1961 to 1974)
- The Echo Boomers (Nexus, Gen Y) (1975 to 1990)
And what we’re seeing now is a new generation entering the workforce… Let’s call them the “Facebook” generation for lack of a better term. More details to come as we learn more about this tech-savvy, compassionate, want-to-make-a-difference-in-the-world cohort…
The applications for leadership? Three words: Pause, Reflect, and Inquire.
- Before you jump to judgment about that crotchety old boomer in the cubicle next to you, spend a brief moment to pause and think about putting yourself in his or her shoes.
- When you get annoyed with the need for immediate feedback that so often characterizes a Nexter and now the “Facebook” generation, remember what they’ve grown up with: cell phones, text messaging, twitter – a world full of technology and innovation… they know no different.
- Check out your own assumptions and treat them as such. Rather than form solid beliefs, take a moment to ask some questions. I bet you’ll learn something new!
Let’s hear about your experiences with generational diversity. Any tips to share?
For more information on Generational Diversity, check out these resources:
- David Foot’s Boom, Bust and Echo
- Lancaster and Stillman’s When Generations Collide