Thursday, April 19, 2012

Too Young, Too Old: What is the Right Age for the Workplace?

For the first time ever, there are four distinct generations that share the workplace:

Silent Generation (mid-60s on up)
§       Baby Boomers (mid-40s to mid-60s)
§      X-ers (mid-20s to mid-40s)     
    Millennial Generation (the newest workers).

The work and life experiences of each group are unique.   

Older workers might think they can teach younger colleagues a thing or two and the young ones think they are more innovated…It seems that the two groups can learn from each other and make the workplace a more productive and positive environment.

Here are a few of those lessons….

Older Workers To Younger Workers:

Hard Times:  Younger workers didn’t go through the recession of the 1970s, and there are still people in the workplace who remember the Depression.  They can pass along wisdom about economic cycles and how they survived providing a long-range view of what to expect. 

Loyalty:  For many people it is out of fashion these days, but sticking with one employer or boss has its own rewards. Older workers know what it means to commit to one job through thick and thin.  It may not be easy to stay the course with one company -- especially when a quick job change may bring instant gratification, more pay and better perks -- but older workers know that some companies do take care of employees who stay and take care of the company. 

Experience:  Whether it’s corporate policies, company politics or industry knowledge, older workers know the ropes and most of them are happy to pass along what they know about people, jobs and success to younger employees.

Interpersonal Skills:  Older workers are social animals who are very skilled at one-on-one direct relationships.  Older workers can teach younger ones basic workplace interpersonal skills such as common courtesy and team play.

Independence:  Older workers know how to depend on themselves. They can teach new workers that when they’re at work, they can’t count on anyone to take care of them.

Younger Workers To Older Workers:

New Technology:  This is the most obvious area. Whether it’s computers, PDAs or any other device with bits and bytes, chances are younger workers know how to use it. If they don’t, they’re comfortable learning how. And, like most people with a skill, they’re usually happy to pass on what they know. 

Diversity: Younger workers come from diverse households and backgrounds. They have “wider perspectives” and can help older workers understand and adapt to the changing world and workforce.

Job-Hopping:  Older workers have been told that only bad, disloyal or incompetent employees leave.  In fact, in today’s world it’s the superstars who jump from job to job.  While older workers may regard career change as negative, young people understand that it can be fulfilling, energizing -- even life changing. 

Risk Taking:  Younger workers are extremely entrepreneurial. They’re excellent out-of-the-box thinkers and risk takers. That’s especially true compared to people who have spent their careers respecting corporate hierarchies and processes, not taking a lot of risks.

Companies that set up diverse teams and cross-generational mentoring systems are allowing their workers to learn from each other and are creating  harmonious work environments that can meet the challenges of the future.

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