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“Whenever a new generation enters the workforce,…the more seasoned generation often uses the same negative words to describe that incoming generation,” Ms. Johnson said.
“I think, in part, those negative words stem from a sense of frustration the more mature generation has with a younger generation's youthfulness.”
In Generations Inc. the Johnsons point out that: “To tar an entire generation with one descriptor misses the tremendous value young people can contribute. Like them or not, young workers are the future of our companies, our communities, and our world.”
They refer to this tarring of one generation by another as “generational myopia.”
Another term they use to describe the differences in generations is a “generational signpost,” which is “an event or a phenomenon that is specific to one generation. It shapes and influences the way we perceive conflict, it drives us when it comes to motivation, but most importantly, our generational signposts bond us to one another.”
With every generation, there is a point of no turning back — a way that used to be that no longer is. For instance, the typical tire dealership today is no longer just about selling tires. It is about tires, automotive aftermarket repairs, continued vehicle maintenance.
This typically was not the case years ago. There was more of a divide between tires and the automotive aftermarket, but now that line has been blurred.
Evolving times also create different ways people do business. Stores are now open late and/or on the weekends more often. Businesses are now more female-friendly.
And the way people do business has changed technologically as well. The differences in the generations can affect how they see this evolution. Younger generations have not lived through the way things were and older generations may cling to the good old days, the Johnsons pointed out.
Ms. Johnson explained: “These changes occur and everybody moves forward, yet for the generations that have been around longer, we have an emotional attachment to the way we've done things in the past. Because it influences the way we make decisions.”
Many of those born into the Traditional Generation can have these attachments to the way things were done in the past. The Traditional Generation goes by other names, such as the Mature Generation, Silent Generation and Greatest Generation. It is referring to the generation of people born before 1945. While this generation makes up only 8 percent of the workforce, its members are still around.
Many of these people are working as volunteers, which includes those who have retired but are not yet ready to leave the workforce completely. This does not mean that employers should give them busy work. They have a lot of experience to offer and that should be utilized, the Johnsons said. Asking these employees what type of work they are interested in can go a long way.
“This generation really built the bedrock our society is built on today,” Ms. Johnson said. Products that are used every day, such as washing machines, dryers, microwaves and the television, were invented and developed by this generation.
Traditionals lived through intense world events that later generations just read about in history books. Because they were children through The Great Depression, World War II, etc., there is a frugality to them that other generations do not have instilled in them.
Ms. Johnson told a story about picking up her grandmother, a Traditional, for dinner. Grandma wanted to finish her drink before leaving the house, but Ms. Johnson was in a hurry and told her to dump it out and that she would even pay for a brand new one at the restaurant.
Anyone in her Generation X peer group would gladly have taken a free drink at a restaurant, Ms. Johnson said, but not Grandma. Why? Because Grandma does not waste. She remembers what childhood was like and does not take what she has now for granted. That day she told her granddaughter that the first thing she needs to do is stop wasting and then start saving, Ms. Johnson recalled.
Different generations have different signposts that shape who they are. For instance, while for Generation Y and all the generations before them, they all have a shared memory in this country of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Most can remember exactly where they were when it happened and what they were feeling.
The generation that is now entering the workplace, Generation Z — also known as “Linksters” — have no real memory of this event. Some were alive on that day, but they were not old enough to comprehend what it meant. They learn about it in school, like how other generations learned about what happened before them — whether that was World War II or Vietnam War, etc.
Recruiting Traditionals now
Traditionals benefited earlier in their lives because of big business and the government. Big business launched mass production of household items, such as the dryer and microwave, and became more affordable for people.
After WWII, the U.S. government rewarded the Traditional Generation with the GI Bill, a benefit that allowed them to buy homes and go to school. Big business then often rewarded them with “jobs for life.” These are reasons why this generation has a strong faith in those entities, whereas generations after them have more cynicism toward these entities.
These staff members have seen a lot in their lifetime. Don't discount that, even if they are just volunteers in the business. Ask them for advice.
The Johnsons advise in Generations Inc. to ask these employees for advice on how to save money because they can be a great resource for this information. Additionally, they will appreciate the acknowledgement that their employer places an emphasis on something they consider a virtue, frugality, and additionally, that their opinion and expertise is of value.
Traditionals are still in the workforce because they still need to pay their bills and to meet their needs. Generations Inc. points out that with this generation, just like every generation, there are going to be hard working, good employees and others that are not as good. Finding ways to actively recruit this generation into the business will allow for a company to find the right fit, as it would with any employee.
“Senior citizens who want to work have much to offer an organization compared to their much younger counterparts: lower absenteeism, lower turnover, higher commitment to quality, good communication skills, and dependability,” Generations Inc. noted.
Recruiting Traditionals by having a strategy for hiring this generation will help pick the right fit for the company, just like with any generation. Efforts to recruit can include showcasing in marketing and hiring process that the business is open to all generations. This can range from wording on a website to going to job fairs and even posting job openings on senior-oriented websites.
Traditionals CAN use technology
The book also explained that “conventional wisdom tells us the Traditional Generation can't keep up with changes in technology. Untrue! They may be resistant, but once they buy in, they can learn quickly. In fact, they are the fastest-growing age group joining the Internet today.”
Traditionally speaking, mentoring typically means when senior employees take younger staffers under their wings and teach them the trade. In today's society and the quick pace that technology can change an office place, reverse mentoring exists. If it doesn't exist in the workplace, it should.
To get older generations up to speed if need be, assign a reverse mentor from a younger generation to assist them, the Johnsons suggest.
Gen-Yers and Linksters are teaching Tradtionals to use the Internet, program their DVRs and other ways of embracing technology. On the flip side, Traditionals are teaching younger generations etiquette, organizational politics and other interpersonal communications skills, according to the Johnsons.
Each generation has its way of wanting to be recognized for a job well done. This generation responds to recognition for their work, such as putting a plaque up or writing about their years of service in the company newsletter.
They take great pride in what they can do for the company, thus Traditionals are more sensitive to public embarrassment. Try to train them one-on-one to make sure they have plenty of time to ask questions. Additionally, whoever is training them should make sure they are taking the time to give them the information they need to succeed, the Johnsons said.
In next week's edition of this online Generations in the Workplace series, the focus will be on the Baby Boomer generation — those born between 1946 and1964.