Learning from the Two Largest Generations
A symbiotic relationship benefits all parties. In our personal lives, it takes the form of doing favors for the people we love. We watch each other’s children because it truly does take a village You help your friend paint their house and, in return, your friend helps you fix your car. We all depend on these relationships to get us through.
In business, symbiosis takes a different form. Instead of granting favors, it’s a cooperative relationship between people of diverse cultures, genders and ages. It’s built on mutual respect, embracing individuality, learning from each other’s past experiences and so much more. And perhaps the biggest divide is between the generations.
We all have a generation label. A bucket we’re placed in based on the year we were born that is defined by certain characteristics. People of Generation X have been dubbed as “lost” and labeled as narcissistic latchkey kids. People who grew up in the Depression era are often described as compulsive savers with a strong moral compass. Baby Boomers, often painted as influential, have arguably witnessed the most significant changes, from coming of age when the world moved at a much slower pace to trying to keep up with today’s velocity. While people of Generation Y were born into a fast-paced world and are represented as progressive, sophisticated and ever changing in their preferences.
These classifications have validity, of course, but we’re more than a product of the year we were born. We’re influenced by countless things that shape us as people and professionals. “Bring open ears and a solid work ethic to a job and not only will you gain people’s respect, but you’ll learn so much from experienced and new colleagues,” says Logan Smith, a trainee in Hajoca’s Management Development Program.
The two largest generational buckets to date – Baby Boomers and Generation Y – are not that far apart in age which means many are currently working together. Josh Huffines, a recent graduate of Hajoca’s Management Development Program who is now managing a local plumbing wholesale business says, “In the grand scheme, we’re only separated by at most 40 years. But its mind boggling to me how much change Baby Boomers have had to adapt to in those four decades versus me who only knows this rapid paced world. I constantly remind myself of this and I have such respect for them.”
When uncertainty wants to lead people down a path of mistrust, Josh offers this advice to each generation, “My fellow comrades in Generation Y need to know our place in the business world. There is no need to overstep boundaries. We are still up and coming, and Baby Boomers have earned the right to be respected. They know the value of face-to-face relationships and can teach us a lot of the smaller, more intangible things that make a business successful. Eventually they will retire and we’ll be at such a disadvantage if we don’t ask questions and learn from them now.”
Josh continues, “This said, Baby Boomers need to understand that we’re not trying to take their jobs and neither is technology. They have so much to teach us and we want – and need – to work together.” Logan adds, “Younger generations have been raised to believe that anything we dream is possible. As much as we need to be a sponge to learn from Baby Boomers, they need to be open to us too. Our ideas may seem unreachable but, then again, they may also be a key to success in the future.”
Embracing each generation for its unique strengths and learning from the differences has zero downside. According to Logan, “Baby Boomers are more patient when it comes to managing people, while Generation Y has more patience with technology.”
And since people and technology are vital to success today, calling on both areas of strength has only an upside for the bottom line.