For several years, our team has enjoyed helping many organizations discover the power of honoring and facilitating the difference in styles of individuals within their organization. In doing so, they have seen growth in productivity and efficiency. In addition, individuals are now working in their strength and passion. This awareness is easy to observe in a stronger bottom line and an improved moral.
The Bridge Group has been teaching a class in “Generational Diversity” for 6 years and has enjoyed great success helping groups discover the vast difference in our workforce of today.
The “Baby Boomers” are the current graduating class now that they have started to retire, the “X” gens are the middle of the workforce, and the “Y” gens (Millennia) are moving into a significant percentage of the workforce. The “Y” gens are not a decreasing presence and their numbers will only increase as time goes by.
We as a society are moving into the greatest opportunity that we as a workforce have ever had in terms of productivity and enjoyment at work.
Looking at the history of work and the ethics that surrounds us, we can see that the Baby Boomers were motivated by an opportunity to provide their children with a better shot at the American Dream. The Baby Boomers were driven by a promise that if they worked hard they would have greater success with their children and be able to enjoy a prosperous retirement. Retirement by definition was primarily “Now that I’m retired I can do what I have always wanted to do”.
There is a belief told by the Baby Boomers that if you pay your dues and muck out the stalls each day, when you get older you will be able to ride the pony more. The “Y” gens are not willing to wait for what is perceived as a” lifetime” to have the gratification. Many understand that if we enjoy riding the pony then we also have to muck out the stall. Most “Y” gens would prefer to ride the pony most of the time and muck out the stall a minimal amount of time. Two questions surface in the face of the belief; first, right now I must not be doing what I always wanted to do, second I will postpone gratification (fun, passion, etc.) till later.
The challenge for most Baby Boomers is how to convince the other generations that they should postpone gratification. In the face of compressed, accessible information on any subject with a global application, it is virtually impossible to keep the up and coming workforce in the dark. To expect blind obedience is unrealistic and all of the societies on a global application are being challenged by the same access to extreme data.
How can we expect “Y” or “X” gens that have contrary information to have confidence in society when you explain to them they need to postpone gratification? Will they want to work for a future retirement that is out in my butts somewhere, while being bombarded by data that is telling them that they have to craft their own retirement?
The statement of today and the future workforce is simple “I want my occupation to be my avocation and my recreation.” In simple terms the “Y” gens want to work at something they can enjoy, have passion for and is clearly fun in its doing. They do not want to wait for “retirement” to have fun and do what they have always wanted to do. A “Y” gen motto: “Retire today and be productive while having passion and fun!”
The compliment of the two often opposing styles is the strength of the partnership. For an example it is the wisdom of a Baby Boomer that can offer insight to the quicksand or an easier path that awaits us and it is the pure quickness of the “X “and “Y” gens that will navigate these challenges with a different perspective. All of the generations in concert cover all of the bases creating a synergy that is unbeatable.
I asked a 58-year old president of a company what he thought he could learn from the Y gens, he replied “Not a damn thing”. I said,” Yea, that’s what the “Y” gens say about you.” At that point, he smiled and I was hired.
It is not so much that one generation is better than another. It is more that every generation has a distinct contribution that needs to be discovered, honored and validated.
Our workforce is at an intersection of discovery that is more exciting and challenging than we have ever witnessed.
It is normal to dream of “living life on my terms.” Learning how to do it is the magic. We can have a say in defining our environment, do not let the environment define you. To work in our passion and fun is attainable; you just have to understand the how. The dream will take diverse styles, not all of the forms this dream will take are the same. There is and should be an individual influence on each and every one of us.