Business owners and supervisors who fall in the Baby Boomer (born 1946-1964) age group scratch their heads, throw up their hands and bang their heads against the wall trying to understand why their “young” workforce isn’t doing their job.
Instead of looking at Gen X (born 1965-1982) and Gen Y (born 1983-2000) as the problem with your workforce did you ever think the problem might be you?
Pac-Man Is Gone Forever so Deal with It
The “youngsters” as you call them who don’t conform, want flex time or beg for telecommuting aren’t being defiant—this is what their generation expects—and deserves. Think about this for a moment Baby Boomers.
The Traditionalists who raised us never spoke up to a superior, completed any task without question and almost never asked the boss for a raise. Enter their kids—you the Baby Boomer. As a Baby Boomer you dropped out in the 1960s and 1970s, wanted to express yourself freely and were enticed when bulky PCs became the norm to make your work easier.
Baby Boomers challenged authority, demanded better pay and they got it. Why? Their Traditionalist bosses understood change is inevitable. They dealt with it and instead of stopping what they thought of as an uprising, they embraced it.
Become a Game of Thrones Leader
Time marches on and once again what you call an uncooperative workforce is really what you used to be. Remember your parents? They hated your clothes, your music and chastised you for missing a day of work because you were hung over after a Led Zeppelin concert.
Enter Gen Y and Gen X. Their music is different and so are their work habits. They demand technology and like you once were, aren’t afraid to speak up. They purposely seek a quicker way to get things done because awaiting them after work, depending on where they fall in age is their wife, partner and kids—these are the things important to them.
It’s not that they don’t want to do their job, they just don’t work the way you used to. Many of them are also healthier than you because they grew up knowing smoking was bad and exercise was good for them. They want to skateboard, bike, hike, attend webinars and sure, be a little wild but is their wildness really different from what you did?
How to Change
Once you accept the problem is not Gen X or Gen and the problem is you, what can you do about it? A while back I wrote an article for Bright Hub, Types of Communication Styles: Bridging the Generation Gap and if you’re a Baby Boomer boss you need to read it.
Here are some tips to understanding the young workforce:
- Give them the technology they want and if they send you a text, so what, they are still communicating.
- They expect a pat on the back for a job well done so why not give it to them?
- They will ask you for more money, flex time or some other benefit you may think is ridiculous but before you say no, think about. You won’t have to think long, however, because Gen X and Gen Y are prepared to “show and tell” you why their request makes sound sense.
- These generations hate being uniformed and out of the loop so keep them in it.
- Stop the long and boring meetings and instead have short and to the point gatherings and give them a task or purpose to jump on, not just a “think about what we can do and we’ll discuss it in our next meeting.” They want to do something now, not a month from now.
- Their ideas conform to the 21st century so listen to them, don’t shoot them down.
- Communicate with lots of visuals, they relate better to these. It’s not that they don’t want to read, it’s more of, these visuals reveal what I need to do quickly, not that long and boring novella HR created in the dark ages.
- They are creative and proud of it, so let them be innovative.
- You’re never going to get those smartphones out of their hands but did you ever think they’re doing something with them to enhance job performance?
- They really do think you’re a dinosaur so prove them wrong.
If change is inevitable, you need to learn how to embrace it like your parents did. You also need to utilize employee engagement techniques. Engaging your employees is the new buzz in creating a motivated and reliable workforce—it’s not just a trend that will go away.
Engaged employees are happier at their jobs and even you, the dinosaur can surely agree loving your job is a good thing.
To business owners everywhere who are in the dark ages of Baby Boomerness—the problem is not Gen X or Gen Y, the problem is you so learn to embrace and change and be open. And, never feel like you’re being attacked—these youngsters as you call them will also have to deal with a new generation when their children grow and enter the workforce and that’s when you can sit back and give them a little advice.