UNDERSTANDING GENERATIONAL PERSPECTIVES …
A KEY TO YOUR LEADERSHIP SUCCESS
Guidelines to bridge the generational perspectives gap
[I]t is imperative that you embrace generational perspectives and capitalize
upon the beliefs and styles of each.
By F. Scott Addis, CPCU, CRA, ACRA, TRA, ASA
A few years ago, I had the privilege of attending a program delivered by Tim Elmore about the importance of understanding generational perspectives. Dr. Elmore is founder and CEO of Growing Leaders—a nonprofit created to develop emerging leaders (www.growingleaders.com), best-selling author of more than 25 books, and leadership and generational expert. Before hearing Dr. Elmore’s message, I did not fully grasp the importance of valuing generation diversity.
Dr. Elmore inspired me to appreciate the fact that the five generations in today’s workplace have differing values, beliefs, and opinions. As a coach and trainer, it was imperative that I answer questions such as:
- What is meant by generational differences?
- What traits, beliefs, and life experiences shape each generation?
- To what degree are people’s mindsets formed in their early years?
- How do world events impact generational perspectives?
- What challenges do generational differences present to those who manage and lead others?
- How important is adjusting communication styles to align with the values, beliefs, and opinions of each generation?
- What opportunities does generational diversity offer to an enterprise?
Five generations in the workplace
Dr. Bea Bourne, a faculty member at Purdue University Global, researches generational response to organizational change; her insight is captured in an infographic titled “Generational Differences in the Workplace.” Her research focuses on the five generations that are working together today—each with differing perspectives:
- Traditionalists (born 1925 to 1945)
- Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964)
- Generation X (born 1965 to 1980)
- Generation Y/Millennials (born 1981 to 2000)
- Generation Z (born 2001 to 2020)
While some people believe that generational differences are a myth, Dr. Bourne’s research validates that meaningful differences exist in areas such as communication skills, the ability to adapt, and technical abilities.
As values, beliefs, and opinions are formed and solidified at an early age, we may assume that Generation Z will continue to be impacted by the war in Ukraine, the pandemic, domestic terrorism, racism, school shootings, national security, and more. The Department of Labor put together a chart (see page 48) projecting the size of the U.S. labor force by age for the year 2025. You will see that Generation Z will be represented by more than 19 million individuals in the workplace, with Baby Boomers representing 26 million people.
As a leader of your firm, it is imperative that you embrace generational perspectives and capitalize upon the beliefs and styles of each. Yet, managing an age-diverse workforce comes with challenges, including intergenerational conflict, communication, and work styles.
- Intergenerational Conflict. Each of the five generations has preferred work environments. For example, when a younger employee suggests a different way of solving a work-related matter, the more seasoned professional may take exception and see the recommendation as a disrespectful action. Carter McNamara, MBA, Ph.D. of Authenticity Consulting (www.authenticityconsulting.com), lists what each generation values in the workplace:
- Traditionalists. Workplaces that are conservative and have hierarchies, a clear chain of command and top-down management.
- Baby Boomers. Workplaces that have flat hierarchies, democratic cultures, humane values, equal opportunities, and warm and friendly environments.
- Generation X. Workplaces that are positive, fun, efficient, fast-paced, flexible, informal, and have access to leadership and information.
- Generation Y/Millennials. Workplaces that are collaborative, achievement-oriented, highly creative, positive, diverse, fun, flexible, and continuously providing feedback.
- Generation Z. Workplaces that foster security, independence, entrepreneurial thinking, and competition. Generation Zs are digitally focused, willing to multitask, and want to be heard and valued.
- Communication. In today’s hybrid work environment, leaders must adapt to the communications preferences of their employees. Baby Boomers use technology to enhance efficiency and productivity, and enjoy Zoom video, email, and phone calls. The younger generations, on the other hand, embrace digital communication through texting; apps like WhatsApp and TikTok; and social media platforms, such as Instagram.
- Work Styles. Each of the five generations has a distinct style that relates to work. While Baby Boomers are comfortable working long hours and enjoy the return to office, Generation Y and Generation Z prefer flexible hours and the option to work remotely.
Although there are obvious challenges in managing an age-diverse workforce, the traits, values, beliefs, and experiences of each generation offer a rich opportunity to improve your customer experience, enhance problem solving, and a build a stronger talent pipeline:
- Improved customer experience. Diverse generational perspectives enhance your ability to gain insights on what makes your customer feel understood, heard, and respected. An age-diverse workplace empowers you to assess the degree to which your pro-ducts, services, resources, and solutions engage your customers’ emotions and drive results.
- Enhanced problem solving. The ability to “think outside the box” is best supported in an environment where differing views and perspectives are recognized and valued. When an age-diverse workforce tackles a problem, creativity and innovation come to the forefront. People of different ages bring different viewpoints and life experiences to problem solving.
- Stronger talent pipeline. A lack of generational diversity impacts a firm when it comes to attracting talent. In today’s ultra-competitive environment, human capital is a key priority. A generationally diverse workforce appeals to those in search of employment. They value the fact that your organization seeks diversity of values, beliefs, opinions, and perspectives.
Bridging the perspectives gap
In “Understand Generational Differences: Guidelines and Resources,” Dr. McNamara suggests the following 10 guidelines to bridge the generational perspectives gaps:
- Avoid talking about generational stereotypes that might be offensive. Instead, recognize each staff member for his or her individuality.
- Recognize your own biases. Every leader has them, and they affect what he or she sees.
- Arrange for your associates to spend time with colleagues from different generations. Often, this strategy allows for people to overcome differences.
- Make every effort to use preferred communication styles.
- Understand that each associate may have different motivators. Invest time to understand motivational triggers.
- Ask each person what they value about the workplace and how they prefer to work.
- During employee performance reviews, ask each associate what could make the workplace more supportive of them.
- Make it a point to attempt to customize work according to their preferences.
- Ask for solutions from people of different generations about frustrations and conflicts in the workplace.
- Use a leadership style that is participative and consensus oriented. If need be, communicate the benefits of the style.
Diverse communication methods cannot be overstated. When communication suffers, the company suffers,” states Dr. Elmore. Dr. McNamara believes that use of email, chat, and in-person meetings goes a long way. He also suggests that you reevaluate your benefits—especially for the younger generations as they value flexible work hours, working from home, and cutting-edge technology. Provide continuing education and mentorship opportunities. Seminars and workshops are a great way to engage diverse age groups. Last, ensure that each new associate understands and values your corporate culture. Taking time to communicate organizational values and principles is so important.
Understanding generational perspectives … a key to your leadership success!
Scott Addis is CEO of Beyond Insurance and an industry leader. His agency was recognized by Rough Notes mag-azine as a Marketing Agency of the Month, he was a Philadelphia finalist for Inc. magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award, and was selected as one of the “25 Most Innovative Agents in America.”
Beyond Insurance is a consulting firm that offers leadership training, cultural transformation, and talent and tactical development for enlightened professionals who are looking to take their organization to the next level. Since 2007, the proven and repeatable processes of Beyond Insurance have transformed agencies as measured by enhanced organic growth, productivity, profitability, and value in the marketplace.
To learn more about Beyond Insurance, contact Scott at email@example.com.