Bridging the generational gap

Are you struggling to create a cohesive company culture that spans the generational gap? You’re not alone. If you just came from our last post, we’re continuing the conversation from this episode of Brand Junkies where Dave and Kenn had the opportunity to sit down with Professional Development Trainer Clint Reese. Read on to glean some of Clint’s wisdom shared in their chat about the workplace gap between the generations and practical ways to span it. 

Often, the younger generations are perceived as disloyal. You’ll hear it said that they don’t care about staying with a company, and there are a lot of factors that go into that. It’s a very high value for the younger generations to have a customized lifestyle. If they don’t like the way they’re working they know they can go somewhere else, but there’s also a perception gap in the generations. 

Often workers from the older generations are viewed as dominant in the workplace. They seem to believe they know everything; they’ve already found success, and the younger generations are scared that they can’t raise their hand and say, “Hey, I found this new app. I think this technology would make us X amount more productive, or X amount more successful.” The younger generations are afraid that the people at the top don’t want to hear it. 

If you can create cohesion and open up communication between the generations, you open your multi-generational company up to a lot of potential growth from those positive ideas and advancements and make the generational gap a little smaller. 

There are four main generations that are in the workplace right now: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. It’s important to go through not just what they’re known for, but why those things came to be. Each generation has been distinctly shaped by the events that took place in their formative years. 

For the Baby Boomers, it was Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement. Gen X was shaped by more of a cultural shift than specific events. Their youth was influenced by MTV, The Challenger Shuttle explosion, and the introduction of 24-hour news. For Millennials, it was 9/11 and Columbine. For Gen Z, it’s Newtown, it’s ISIS attacks… When you zoom out it starts to become more clear why the younger generations are marked as being more in touch with their emotions. By processing the traumatic events happening on their soil in their youth they developed a higher value for how they feel. 

That translates into the workplace as Millenials and Gen Zs put more value in their work experience. If you don’t put a high value on workplace culture and experience, you’re going to keep losing your younger generations. 

Opening up communication between the older and younger generations is key to bridging the generational gap. Often these camps have fears that mirror each other. I gave a presentation to a room of almost exclusively Baby Boomers, and I asked them when it was over, “What are you afraid of for the new generation coming in?” They said they feared that they wouldn’t ask for help, that they wouldn’t want mentorship or advice. They feared that the younger generations wouldn’t care about getting any better, they would want to do things their way and wouldn’t care about what the older generations had learned.

Then, I gave that exact same presentation to a class at a university to a room almost entirely full of individuals from Generation Z. I asked them afterward what they feared from members of the older generations as they entered the workplace. They responded that they were afraid that they wouldn’t be able to ask questions. They were afraid that the older generations wouldn’t care what they thought or value the new ideas they brought to the table. They were afraid they wouldn’t get any help. It was the mirror image of the older generation’s fears. 

When you open up communication and create a space in your company where anyone can bring ideas to the table, you open up a multi-generational conversation. By helping the generations get around their misconceptions of one another you can connect them over their common hope and vision. It can change everything. 

Talking with Clint really got us thinking. If each generation has a unique set of core values that affect how they relate to their workplace experience, how do those values affect how they interact in the marketplace? What other factors affect how the generations respond to Facebook ads, email marketing campaigns, and other digital marketing tactics? 

Join us next week as we take a deep dive into digital marketing turned generational marketing, where we’ll discuss what tactics get the most traction with each generation.