True Life: The Generation Gap in action…

You think you know, but you have no idea! We as HR constantly attend programs related to connecting the dots between the generations in the workforce, but behind closed doors what is it like an HR Dept that has employees from all generations?

  • 1st hand experience to the different generations-I work for baby boomers, I was raised (or raised them, I don’t know for sure) by Gen X parents, I’m Gen Y and my siblings are Gen Z (in some definitions they fall under Gen Z and in some definitions they squeak into Gen Y<– because I believe they are wildly different from me I’m going to call them Gen Z).
  • What are some characteristics we associate with each generation (from face value):

-Baby Boomers are hard workers. They believe in going to work, getting the job done and loyalty. They still approach problem solving with an “old-school” state of mind. Employment IS for life.

-Gen X are the beginning of the latchkey kid phenomena. They are well-educated and only loyal until they are unhappy. They will not stick around if they aren’t happy.

-Gen Y… We are rebellious (really we are just strongly opinionated and embrace the opportunity to voice it) We are lazy (really we just believe in working smarter not harder) We think we know it all (really we know we have the tools to know it all, we don’t have to remember it all- we have google for that).

-Gen Z spolied and misinformed.  Harsh I know, but my summary of Gen Z: They are sheltered from the realities of life. Everyone gets a “participation trophy”, tolerance means comprimising values (which I’m quite certain will eventually diminish the desire to have values) and parents can’t spank their children anymore. (Spare the rod, spoil the child?)Now don’t get me wrong each generation definitely has its positives, only time will tell for Gen Z, but I’m certain they will surface!

Obviously I defended Gen Y a bit more than the others because that’s what I’m classified as. These are blanket statements that are not true for each individual under each generation, but as a whole this is how the public summarizes them. I constantly encounter someone older than me that summarizes my generation as “lazy”. This happens because our approach to work usually has a way to cut out a couple of “unneccessary” steps. Because we don’t do things the way the baby boomers or generation x does them we are automatically labeled as lazy and know it all. Here’s some lessons learned: I’ve always been excited about the work I do since the day they hired me. During my “learning curve” I observed all that I could and took pages and pages and pages and pages and then some more pages of notes. I wrote down everything they taught me, everything I learned on my own, everything I learned from customers, applicants, employees, etc. As an “outsider” looking into the process it was easy for me to identify some steps that could easily be improved to save a ton of time and money. However, the majority of these suggestions/ideas were met with resistance. This baffled me! My thought process was all over the place trying to interpret resistance to easy changes and I couldn’t come up with a good answer. Then one day at a NASHRM luncheon the speaker was talking about the way the different generations interact and everything fell in place! The point that stuck with me (and quite frankly I don’t remember anything else from his presentation) was to show the older workforce that I wasn’t trying to take their job away from them, but trying to make it easier! So it wasn’t my ideas that were the problem it was the delivery of those ideas! I occasionally run into resistance with new ideas now, but usually if I remember to deliver the idea in its true purpose (to improve what we do and make our jobs a little easier) then I at least get my ideas heard and discussed. And its true that sometimes once those ideas reach discussion I realize that maybe that isn’t the best thing since sliced bread after all!

What else is different? The way we look for work. This is huge for us and what we do. It only makes sense for us to have someone on staff from each generation so that they can appeal to their generation in the advertising, recruiting and treatment of their generation. We know that all generations are in the workforce now and there are people from all of the generations LOOKING for work now; it would be insane for us to not acknowledge that and cater to that. While I may recruit through Facebook and LinkedIn my boss is more likely to recruit by other, more traditional ways.

The point is there are GOOD and BAD things that come from the generation gap in the HR department. It can help us solve problems and think in different perspectives  or it can cause us to be catty towards each other and counterproductive. The important thing is to perfect your delivery and keep in consideration that while we constantly (as the younger generation) pick at what the older generations do wrong (and probably vice-versa) we could focus on what they do right and build from there.

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