4Gs, 3Cs, and a Splash of Perspective
A Compact Approach to Engaging the Multi-Generational Workforce
Chances are when you read the “phrase” 4G your mind immediately conjured cellphone commercials, perhaps a young man dreaming about taping a cheetah to his grandma’s back to increase her speed or the sad cry of a werewolf who wants to be a human again, yet the 4Gs to which the title alludes has nothing to do with cellphone connection speed. Silents, Boomers, Xers, and Millennials are the topic of conversation here: the four generations prevalent in today’s workplace.
A Glance at the 4Gs
Recognizing there are multiple generations in the workplace is by no means a revolutionary concept, the idea has been around for over 50 years, yet the challenge to bridge generation gaps still remains. Before we attempt to jump the hurdles associated with bridging a generation gap, lets take a brief (and I mean brief) glance at the four generations.
Silent (Born 1933-1945): Work hard and speak softly.
Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964): Live to work.
Gen X (Born 1965-1976): Work to live.
Millennials (Born 1977-1998): Work is merely a piece of the puzzle used to change the world.
These, of course, are broad generalizations, but should help you get a sense of the difference in how each generation approaches the workplace. I could write for days (and many have) about only those things that make each generation unique, but let’s not get bogged down in the details just yet. The important message is still to come.
How to Engage the 4Gs with 3Cs
The challenge of bridging the generation gaps among these four very distinct generations begins with engagement. How can you possibly create a workplace that appeals to both the young and the more seasoned, the Boomer and the Xer? As a Millennial manager this challenge seems even larger – how can I get a team of more experienced professionals to respect my role and find satisfaction in their positions? Yet the solution lies in 3Cs.
CULTIVATE THE “RIGHT” CLIMATE
Create a climate that energizes and empowers. It is up to you to break free from being a thermometer (simply reading the climate around you) and become a thermostat (that which impacts and sets the climate), as the workplace climate is a reflection of management tone and priorities.
A Few Easy Tips:
- Respect work style differences.
- Be visible, walk around, say hi, greet peers.
- Keep commitments & appointments.
- Celebrate successes.
The message matters. But so does the method. It is important to know your audience and the best way they are going to receive the message. Do you know your employees’ preferences for communication? Perhaps a text message or a face-to-face encounter? Do you communicate frequently enough? Or too much? Are your methods of communication current and up to date? Taking the time to understand the individual’s communication style can ensure that the message is properly received, sets your employee up for success, and demonstrates your commitment to them as an individual.
- Request frequent feedback. Ask: What’s going well? What’s not going well? What can I do to support you?
- Express your appreciation. Tell people they count! At least once a month tell people why and how their work is significant.
- Make sure employees see the link between their work and the organization’s mission, goals, and values. Use positive messages instead of “or else” statements to inspire.
- Connect with people in person.
ENTERTAIN CANDID CAREER CONVERSATIONS
Everyone desires to feel valued. They want to feel engaged, empowered, and needed at work. Coaching is how you meet that need. A successful manager will take the time to have candid conversations with employees about their career opportunities. They will support their career, build a relationship, ask how they’d like to be coached/mentored and take the time to follow through. They commit to valuable contributions, meaningful work and mutual success.
A Few Easy Tips:
- Have career conversations.
- Develop a list of potential projects, challenging assignments and tasks that could enhance their career.
- Develop a training plan for your team that comprehends what skills your team members need now to make sure they are skilled in the future.
- Arrange for a senior leader to meet with employees. Ask them to talk about their own lessons learned and how they have managed their careers.
- Discuss reputations (see What’s in a Name? for more details on personal branding).
The Bottom Line
As a Millennial I have a unique opportunity. We (Millennials) will not be the new kid on the block forever, truthfully we are almost yesterday’s news, but it is an optimal season to learn how to master cross-generational engagement and glean something from those around me. For those who are more seasoned veterans of the workforce these tips still ring true. No matter what generation you were born into, everyone wants to be engaged at work. Now is your chance to help them and maybe even yourself, find the fulfillment they (or you) have been looking for.