Bridging the Generational Gap

The generational gap has never been wider. Since leaders and bosses are the ones who must take action to bridge the gap, what changes in leadership and management practices are necessary? How can we motivate younger workers to do their best?

I see this often when I go into companies to work with their people. There’s a definite difference in work values due to ages.

On one side, we have an entrenched group with 30+ years of workplace experience, often with only a few companies. Most believe there’s only one way of doing things, including carrot-and-stick motivation.

On the other side, we have a large, skittish group of employees who have entered the workplace with college degrees, superior technical skills, and completely different life and work strategies… some of which seem to run in opposition to older work-hard-and-long styles and values.

For younger generations, the job future has never been more precarious and uncertain. As a leader, one of your primary responsibilities is attracting and retaining employees, especially talented ones.

In my opinion, it’s we bosses and managers who must learn to put ourselves in the younger generations’ shoes, without prejudice or judgment, even though it’s human nature to view them as inexperienced and naive.

The gap can, and must, be bridged. If you’re in the older managerial group, you must learn to make adjustments to get the most from — and give the most to — the vast population of younger employees.

Your challenge is straightforward, yet complex: You must determine which personal differences are superficial and which convictions are deeply held. Then, reconcile the valid convictions with the traditional work-force model.

There is no escape, since this is going to become a big issue in the coming decade. Each group must make a concerted effort to understand the other so teams can discover the best ways to define and achieve workplace success. It’s up to you to find the keys and inspire understanding.

What is required to lead young people who believe Boomers are outdated and out of touch?

Leaders should ask themselves the following questions:

  1. What do my employees want from their jobs, bosses and work experience?
  2. How do salary, benefits and promotion opportunities affect loyalty?
  3. How do my direct reports define themselves? How do one’s job and the company enter into this equation?
  4. Do my newer workers believe in paying their dues for a given time period, or are they motivated by challenges and self-fulfillment right from the very beginning?

Thanks for your comments in my previous posts…I am still noodling leadership change in relation to generational change. What are your thoughts about how the generations view leadership and how is that view a driver for leadership change?

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