In the 21st century workplace, you’ll find a healthy mix of Millennials, Gen X’ers, Baby Boomers and Veterans/Traditionalists. One company, regardless of size, can employ all four generations, which begs the question: How can you make your business work seamlessly with all of these different age groups and working styles?
I came across an Inc. article recently that addressed this very issue in a fresh way that I hadn’t seen before, promoting the concept of co-mentoring. It’s brilliant because each age group brings a unique perspective on the way the world works, the use of technology, how we communicate, and how we approach business.
Each generation has a set of common characteristics, so we can use our understanding of those characteristics to build a better, more cohesive workplace that learns from one another. I dug a little deeper into this concept, as CareTouch employs at least 3 of the 4 generations, and found some interesting traits emerge.
First, consider the Millennial, or Generation Y (those people born between the early 1980s and early 2000s). Gen Y is the newest generation to enter into the workforce. They grew up in a multi-cultural world, enabling them to work well on teams with diverse co-workers. Here is an abbreviated list of Gen Y characteristics I found:
- Group socialization, comfortable working on teams
- Wants to make friends with people at work
- Communicates in snippets (IM, text, Facebook, email)
- Technologically savvy
- Needs constant feedback and in particular, praise
- Figures out the best, fastest way to complete a task and then considers themselves done
Generation X includes people who were born between 1965 and 1980. This generation grew up in the era of emerging technology – where mimeograph machines turned into high-speed copiers, bulky adding machines were replaced by handheld calculators, and computers the size of entire buildings were turned into one that sat on your desk. Some of the characteristics of Gen X workers include caring more about their productivity than the number of hours spent on the job, and:
- Being adaptable and independent
- Striving for high-quality as the end result
- Seeing themselves as a marketable commodity
- Technically competent
- Want to achieve a balance between work and life
Baby Boomers comprise the third generation set (people who were born between 1946 and 1964), and still includes roughly 41% of the U.S. workforce. They embrace the value of having to sacrifice to get ahead. Some of their characteristics include:
- Prefer face-to-face communication
- Value inclusive leadership
- Job status is important; as is recognition with a wide public profile
- Team oriented
- Always learning
Getting back to the Inc. article on the co-mentoring concept, I started to put together the pieces of my own team and how they fit into these categories. More importantly, I began to consider how we are already on the path towards working in a co-mentoring mode. The significance of this is to be able to benefit the company as a whole by merging the positive values of each generation. For example:
- Baby Boomers can teach Millennials the value of face-to-face communication.
- Gen X’ers can mentor Baby Boomers on ways to increase productivity through technology.
- Millennials can show Gen X’ers how to utilize team building and socializing for the benefit of productivity.
By utilizing the strengths that each of these generational dynamics offers, companies can maximize their value to their customers by becoming a provider that understands how to make things work together for the greater good.
Matthew Dolph is CEO for CareTouch Communications, Inc. and brings 20 years of management experience to the company’s operations. He has helped design, implement and manage numerous patient communication solutions for CareTouch customers and business partners. He coaches multiple competitive soccer teams and lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.