Boomers

Multi-generational Networking and Mentoring

If we are honest with ourselves we all harbor prejudices about others who are different from ourselves.Stereotypes persist because they contain a grain of truth. However, we learn that stereotypes confine a group to a convenient little box. Stereotypes ultimately hold back a group, especially if they are not in control.Once we discover for ourselves the truth by meeting and getting to know people, we find out how limiting and pernicious stereotypes can be.

One of the most misunderstood prejudices is between the generations. Always been the case, but today it is amplified by life expectancy the profound differences in the accelerated changes, experiences, and historical events that have shaped each group's point of view. Like all discussions of differences, there is a fine line between education/awareness and reinforcing stereotypes. That being said, thinking about and understanding these differences is a part of appreciating commonalities. Generational

Take this Generation IQ test to see how you fare. And then check out the chart below to remind you about  the basic differences among the generations.

Boomers and the Millennials may have the biggest generation gap. Not just in years, but in world views. One irony is the former formed the latter's mindset. This is highlighted in the workplace. Boomer bosses can't understand the work ethic or what they perceive the lack of one. And Millennials are peeved by the attempts to make them fit into the old set of rules that have not proven to make the world any better. Like all divergent points of view, both are correct. Nothing gets done unless there are bridges of mutual benefit and understanding are built.

This is where networking and mentoring come to the rescue. Everybody wants to be listened to and to be understood. Spending the time to get to know one another will enable you to find out that you want the same basic things. Some of the issues are pretty insignificant. Some flex in the rules and hours. Making the impact of the work more palpable, more meaningful, and more understood. And giving the youth guidance on the path to their goals. I have found these steps help. Bottom line: listen and find the common grounds before making any statments or pronouncements. 

Traditionalists

Civics

born 1920-1944

Baby Boomers

born 1945-1964

Generation X

born 1965-1976

Millennials

Gen Y

Born 1977-1994

Context

Great Depression, WWII

“Sixties”,Vietnam Advent of TV, Civil Rights

Iran Hostages, Divorce, Latch-keys, Microwave Ovens

Computers, Internet, Helicopter parents, 9/11

Population

30 million

36 million

50 million

77 million

Work Style

By the book - "how" is as important as "what" gets done

Get it done - whatever it takes - nights and weekends

Find the fastest route to results; protocol secondary

Work to deadlines - not necessarily to schedules

Authority/
Leadership

Command/control; rarely question authority

Respect for power and accomplishment

Rules are flexible; collaboration is important

Value autonomy; less inclined to pursue formal leadership positions

Communication

Formal and through proper channels

Somewhat formal and through structured network

Casual and direct; sometimes skeptical

Casual and direct; eager to please

Recognition/
Reward

Personal acknowledgement and compensation for work well done

Public acknowledgement and career advancement

A balance of fair compensation and ample time off as reward

Individual and public praise (exposure); opportunity for broadening skills

Work/Family

Work and family should be kept separate

Work comes first

Value work/life balance

Value blending personal life into work

Loyalty

To the organization

To the importance and meaning of work

To individual career goals

To the people involved with the project

Technology

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

Necessary for progress

Practical tools for getting things done

What else

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, mentoring offers the most powerful tool to span the ravine between the boomers and the millennials. Millennials want to learn and grow and they want to define success. Boomers need new ideas, technology and energy. On the surface this is a marriage made in heaven.

"Mentoring young employees is a tested way to transfer knowledge, and there are mutual benefits. "There's a lot to be said for reverse mentoring," says Piktialis. "Younger workers can learn about the organization and social networking from older employees, but experienced workers can also gain so much in terms of new technology and proficiency." Use your younger employees for sharing and training on the latest software and hardware; they will feel valued for their skills, and your older employees will benefit by staying current. says Diane Piktialis, research working group leader of the Conference Board.

I learned this the hard way when I led my first start-up. I realized my limitations in the new tech world and I swallowed my pride and engaged younger mentors to help me understand and lead with the best information. In exchange, I showed them all of my bag of tricks and gave them more opportunities. Later I turned this into a more intentional process to make sure we captured this two-way mentoring process to benefit the organization's mission. In the end mutual goals were achieved and both the mentee and the mentor were better off.

Consider a skill based mentoring program where mentor and mentee are matched on interests, not seniority or position in the organization. Here's an excerpt from a program touted by the University of Texas:

Consider creating a mentoring program based on your workers’ skills and not based on their function or seniority in the organization. This new and different approach gives any employee from any generation a way to transfer or receive a new skill. For example, an employee might want to learn how to “tweet,” another employee may want to learn how to coach. Whoever possesses that skill within the organization, on any level, can share that information with their co-workers. This model allows all generations to learn together in a way that doesn’t threaten anyone’s position, because it centers on learning different skills from a variety of co-workers.

While technology is the easiest focus for some boomers, look deeper for other connecting points. And for the millennials, leadership and management may be the obvious topic. If you take a complete interest inventory, you will discover other opportunities to enhance the skill and knowledge needs in your organization.

Being a leader today requires you to engage tools and processes to optimize the talents and potential in the people you manage or work with. It requires you to create new partnerships, alliances, and mentorships to be successful.

No one wants to be accused of discrimination or prejudice--although it exists. Understanding these generational differences makes us better employees, managers, marketers, parents, and customer servers. Advancing mutually beneficial ideas that connect parties of different generations may be a productive first step across the generational canyon. Connecting and listening always help. Skill based mentoring may be a tangible way to make more progress between the cubicles and offices and beyond.

Thanks for reading. John