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Why is it so hard to work with Boomers, GenX’ers, Millennials, and GenZ? For the first time in history, the workplace contains four different generations. There four types of people who grew up in extremely different and unique eras, and deeply identify with that era they grew up in.
In this episode of Team Anywhere, we interviewed Generational Expert and Author of Second Wave Millennials, Warren Wright. Warren uses his experience from his work at Gallup to help bridge the divisive gap between generations in the workplace. Inside this episode, Warren shares the importance of coaching your multi-generational team to reduce isolation and increase collaboration. First, Warren discusses understanding the roles generations play in business. Then he shares mis-communication between generations that is commonly occurring right now. After that, he talks about what Millennials value in the workplace and the current issues they are facing along with incredible tips for leaders in 2021.
Why Teamwork is Important in this Multi-Generational Work Environment
Inside Warren’s research, 75% of the respondents said generational differences get in the way of being productive in the workplace. For this reason, understanding the perspectives of the people you work with based on their generation can greatly improve your relationships and your ability to collaborate with each other.
When respondents were given options like race, gender, locality of where they are from–and then asked what makes them the person they are, Warren was astonished to discover that generations actually came up first. So this means that people are defining themselves first by their generation.
What Generation Am I?
Communication Styles Between Generations
Since the onset of the pandemic, miscommunication between generations has accelerated in the work from home environment. The pandemic is impacting each generation differently.
BOOMERS & GEN X
Have more time on their hands. Kids are out of the house (or almost out of the house.) Boomers and GenX’ers are learning new ways to communicate and keep up with their teams. They are often newer to systems such as Slack and Zoom and depend more on phone calls and emails.
MILLENNIALS & GENZ
Millennials and GenZ are leveraging new technologies to help improve their collaboration. The Millennial generation has experienced the most difficulties in communicating with other generations since the pandemic. In Warren’s research, 50% of millennials say they’re having difficulty communicating with colleagues of other generations compared to 30% for Boomers and Xers. The reason why is the same reason Millennials had difficulties before the pandemic: they feel they are not getting enough feedback.
Workplace Values for Millennials
Millennials like to chat and be in constant communication with each other. With this value, we’ve seen a rise in tools that encourage rapid communication and feedback this generation values so greatly, reducing the amount of emails. Millennials would rather co create and collaborating is very important to them in the workplace. When Millennials went to school, they did a lot more group work compared to the older Generations.
Tools to Increase Collaboration and Communication
- Microsoft teams
- Google Docs
Millennials want to know that what you’re talking about at work is meaningful and real and authentic and makes a difference. They want to know that you actually care about them as individuals. When they know this, the communication floodgates open. Millennials and younger generations don’t like to work in organizations that just produce widgets. As a result, they like to work in organizations that actually have meaningful assignments.
Millennials value authenticity because they want their inner life to be the same as their outer life. As a result, they value authenticity in the workplace and keenly look for leaders who say they are authentic, actually act in authentic ways, and thus foster authentic environments.
Frequent, High Quality Feedback
In Warren’s survey, the number one reason that millennials are so dissatisfied, is the same reason they were dissatisfied before the pandemic. They don’t feel like they’re getting enough feedback. Ensure that you are touching base with Millennials on a frequent basis, because their time frame is very different from your timeframe. They think about time in a really different way and they want high-quality feedback fast and frequently. This might be difficult as older leaders are learning to navigate new technologies like Slack, but it’s one of the best things they can be doing right now.
Current issues Millennials & GenZ are Facing
Isolation, Anxiety and Loneliness
One small company made entirely of Millennials, keeps their zoom on all day to defeat isolation and loneliness. Even if they’re not talking with each other, they do this just to be together.
Dealing With Anxiety
The levels of Anxiety the two younger Generations are facing is off the charts. Clinically, 46% of Gen Z’s are experiencing extreme anxiety. With this in mind, one component contributing to this anxiety is kind of the existential dread of many things: bad leadership, climate change politics, gun control, social change. Frequently, these Generations feel like they’re weighted down; they are feeling even more weighted down from working alone from home over the past pandemic year.Another key point is that these age groups are used to being around people and are dying to get out and see each other.
With this in mind, Leaders could help combat loneliness and ease some anxiety through creating solutions that bring people together in non-work related ways through events, contests, and games. For example, one Silicon Valley company plays video game tournaments to help keep everyone together.
Leadership Tips for 2021
Coach Your Multi-Generational Team
Warren recommends being like the CEO of Microsoft: take off your “Boss” hat and put on your “Coach” hat. First set up Weekly 1-on-1 coaching sessions for 10 minutes with each person on your team. Next, inside those coaching sessions, ask your team:
#1 What did you do last week? What did you accomplish? How did it go?
#2 What do you have planned for this week? What’s on your agenda?
#3 How can I help you?
Hire in Cohorts
For the purpose of creating connections to reduce a sense of loneliness, hire young people in batches and help them connect to each other and collaborate as a team.
Find Ways to Increase Connection and Collaboration
Whether this involves adding events, online collaboration tools or just creating valuable conversations, leaders need to find ways to increase connection and collaboration with their teams.
Ask Your Team What They Need
Younger generations are feeling isolated. If you really want to know what they want and need, just ask them.
About Warren Wright
Warren Wright is one of the nation’s leading experts on researching generations, working with leaders to uncover their influence and insights on business strategy and outcomes. He is Founder and CEO of Second Wave Learning whose mission is to prepare the next generation of leaders and help all generations collaborate more effectively in organizations and society. Warren is a former Managing Partner at Gallup and has over 2 decades of experience in consumer research and demography, leadership development, and workshop facilitation. He is author of the book, Second Wave Millennials: Tapping the Potential of America’s Youth, published in 2019. Warren is a frequent keynote speaker for associations and company conferences. He is a lifelong learner in the areas of human behavior, leadership and business outcomes. His top 5 Strengths are: Maximizer, Activator, Ideation, Developer, and Positivity.
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