How to lead a multi-generation workplace

405_GenerationalWorkforceEach generation wants to change the world. The world they live in and the specific issues they are faced with may be different, but in general they revolve around three areas: economic, social, and international. There are three larger generational age groups that are most frequently talked about today. The Great Generation, The Boomer Generation, and The Millennial Generation.

The great generation and the boomers grew up changing the world from the top down – political and civic leaders were the driving force. The Millennials have only known a world with instant communication and movements that can start online. For them change comes from within the individual, and across communities.

The Great Generation was born between 1901 and 1924. Their world saw The Great Depression, the formation of social safety nets, and World War II. For this generation the National Government intervened. The military protected the nation from aggression and government programs like Social Security, The GI Bill, and The Federal Housing Administration were formed.

There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Boomer Generation was born between 1946 and 1964. They experienced economic growth, a focus on equal rights, The Cold War, and the Vietnam War. Charismatic leaders of the day encouraged this generation to make their voices heard so that change would come.

“We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or to make it the last.” – John F. Kennedy

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”­ – Martin Luther King Jr.

The Millennial Generation was born between 1982 and 2003. We live in this world today. The Great Recession, the explosion of Social Media, and The War on Terror are in the forefront of every national discussion. The individual’s voice can be heard around the world in an instant. Not confined to turning the large ship around slowly, the Millennial seeks to be the change themselves.

“A few generations ago, people didn’t have a way to share information and express their opinion efficiently to a lot of people. Bu now they do. Right now, with social networks on the Internet, all of these 500 million people have a way to say what they’re thinking and have their voices be heard.” – Mark Zuckerberg

The workplace today is largely made up of Boomers in leadership positions and some nearing retirement age, and Millennials entering the workplace and looking to begin their career.

The key to leading in this multi-generational workplace is to recognize that each generation wants to make a difference in their own way. Don’t sacrifice one method for another, but allow both to thrive together.

If you are a Boomer, talk about the past but listen to the present. You know where the company has been and how it got where it is today. You know the markets, the products, the regulations. Don’t just teach the Millennials what you know, give them the opportunity to learn and ask questions and dig deeper. This knowledge adds great value to the conversation. Equally important is to listen to the Millennial’s view on what is happening today. How to market to the new generation, how to reach a global economy. Invite the Millenials to be part of the solution.

If you are a Millennial, listen to the past, but talk about the present. Invest time learning the history of the company and the industry. Ground yourself in the experiences that brought your coworkers to this place. Equally important is to share your views. Ask to be on projects and teams where you can talk about the needs and desires of your generation.

A final thought to guide these and future generations:

Each generation, like each person, has a unique set of strengths that can be leveraged for success. Seek to understand and develop these strengths.