Diversity Woman Magazine

SUM 2016

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

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36 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N S u m m e r 2 0 1 6 d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m THEGENERATIONGAME E very day, about 10,000 baby boomers retire. As they depart, and as Millennials contin- ue to arrive and step into leadership roles, companies are undergoing an unprecedent- ed shift. "Over the next ten years, we'll see the greatest transfer of knowledge in the his- tory of the world," says Chip Espinoza, di- rector of organizational psychology for the School of Professional Studies at Concordia University Irvine and coauthor of Millennials Who Manage and Managing the Millennials. "Tis is tacit knowledge that is expe- riential. It's not written down. It's transferred through relationships. If that knowledge walks out the door when baby boomers retire, companies will lose a big competi- tive advantage." Now more than ever, it's crucial that younger and older employees forge close working relationships. Companies that can help em- ployees do that, experts say, will see benefts beyond ensuring a smoother knowledge transfer. Research shows that diversity sparks greater insight when it comes to problem solving and in- novation—and generational di- versity adds yet another layer of richness. "A successful work team should consist of multiple genera- tions, personalities, and talents, all working toward a common goal," says Rich Milgram, CEO of Be- yond, Te Career Network. "Tat diversity enables teams to tackle challenges by leveraging fresh per- spectives." THE GENERATIONAL DIVIDE While experts tout the benefts of multigenerational work teams, there's been lots of buzz about the cultural clash between the Millennials, Generation X, and the baby boomers—driven by their values, preferences, and work styles. Companies have always welcomed new generations into the workplace, so why all of the angst around today's multigenera- tional workforce? We've entered a unique era, experts say, because the genera- tions have become more distinctive than in previous times. "Te more social change that happens, the greater the diferences be- tween generations," Espinoza explains. "If everybody grew up in a tribe on the Amazon, you wouldn't have much change." But in our more dynamic society, social changes have wid- ened the generation gaps. One is upbringing, with the younger generation being more openly communicative. "Tese chil- dren were raised in dialogue," says Chris DeSantis, principal at CPDeSantis.com and an expert on generational diferences in the workplace. "Te other generations were raised in a tell mode: 'You do as I say.'" So older generations are comfortable in the work- place, which is hierarchical, because it mimics how they were raised at home. Tat hierarchy isn't quite as familiar for Millenni- als. Older employees will say, 'Why are they acting this way?' But they're not acting in any way. Tis is how they behave naturally." Also, Millennials are the frst generation who haven't need- ed an authority fgure to access in- formation. "Te last place they'll go for information, many times, is an authority fgure," Espinoza says. "At work, that's perceived [by older employees] as disrespectful: 'Tey think they know more than I do.' So companies that want to help Millennials transition should focus on the quality of the rela- tionship between managers and Millennials." BRIDGING THE CREVASSE Smart organizations will fnd ways to help bridge the generation gaps. As Milgram cautions, "When there is doubt or distrust along genera- tional lines, the workforce fails to operate at its greatest potential." DeSantis says that every new gen- eration was once considered a prob- lem. "Young boomers were seen as hippies, young Gen Xers were seen as slackers, and Millennials struggle with the mantle of entitled. Every generation self-corrects." Meanwhile, it's important to re- member that attitudes and values can cross over generational lines. Both baby boomers and Millen- nials, for example, value using their work to contribute to society. When employees better understand one another—and them- selves—walls break down, spurring more vibrant, productive working relationships. Diferences can even morph into valu- able learning opportunities. Gen Xers may feel that younger people overshare, for example, but DeSantis says that Gen Xers often don't share enough. "If you want people to be more em- pathetic, you have to develop relationships and share," he says. Younger employees, of course, are also tech savvy. "Millenni- als grew up with tech," says Chris Szpryngel, acting dean of the Malcolm Baldrige School of Business and an expert on aging in TODAY'S GENERATIONS a Silent Generation Born 1925 to 1946 a Baby Boom Generation Born 1946 to 1964 a Generation X Born 1965 to 1979 a Millennial Generation Born 1980 to 1999 (Generation Y) a Generation Z Born 2000 and after

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