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Tools to Navigate 5 Generations Working Together

Mary Beth Ormiston joins us again to talk about the current landscape of the workforce that has five generations working together for the first time in history. She talks about the differences and similarities of each group and calls out common values that can help us all work together better. 

Show Notes:

Show Script:

Brian  
Welcome to the Operate Intelligently Podcast, the podcast for all things operations.

We've got another great topic for you today, we're going to talk about workplace generations, and how this is the first time in history that we've had five different generations in the workplace working side by side, and each with different leadership, community and career development styles. Joining me today is Mary Beth Ormiston of MBO Consulting. Mary Beth, welcome back to the podcast.

Mary Beth Ormiston  
Thank you. I'm glad to be back.

Brian  
So can you talk a little bit about what is happening in the workforce that's making this topic so important?

Mary Beth Ormiston  
Well, it really is exciting, because never before in our lifetime of work, have we had five very distinct work styles and generations that we are trying to make viable and to work together. It's a great process, but it also has challenges. And it also has opportunities. And as we think about this, we think about those young ones coming out of college, of trying to find work, but we still have the baby boomers that are at the other end of the spectrum. And so for the first time, we have very varied styles of work and individuals.

Brian  
So real quick, you mentioned the five generations, I wonder if we should kind of maybe point them out? For sure.

Mary Beth Ormiston  
Sure, we can do that? Well, you know, I think most of us recognize we start with the silent generation. Many times, those were the folks that were they liked the rules, they liked the framework. And it was easy for them to maneuver around what I kind of call the box. And then the next level, where are the baby boomers, the ones that have had so much attention, and they still make up 27% of our workforce, but they're rapidly leaving. However, there is something significant with the baby boomers. They're not quite ready to give in to the retirement, there's many of them that are doing other kinds of work, whether it be part time, part of it is because of maybe not having retirement dollars, but some of it is that aspect, that work ethic of work, they're not quite ready to do something else, then we have Generation X, those are the workforce of those that still kind of want to communicate directly then make up about 35% of our workforce right now. They like independence, but they also like the interaction with folks. So as you can see, as I go through this, there is a common denominator. But we are still working with five different generations, then we have Generation Y, and that's about 37% of our workforce. These are the true entrepreneurs of the workforce that we are that are emerging and are coming into, they like and they prefer such things as direct communication. They like feedback. So now with the four you can already kind of see just briefly, the differentials in all of them. And then we have the Gen Z, you know, those are the ones that are active on Twitter, all of the social media. Now, in my day and age, I didn't look for a job on Twitter. I don't know whether you did. No, we didn't do that. Well, Generation Z, that's their mode. It's social media. It's everything that has to do with technology. Their communication is social media. However, they have very little job experience, but they have huge networks of people that they interact with. So kind of bring briefly, those are the five generations that we now have in the workforce. And as I said earlier, provides great challenges, and even better opportunities.

Brian  
So that was a great rundown of the different generations that are in the workforce today. Can you talk a little bit about what they all have in common?

Mary Beth Ormiston  
Yeah, and I think there's a lot of times, we don't think there's commonality or a common denominator, because we have all five, and we say, oh, you know, they're all different. You know, my mom or my dad, they can't even get on the internet. But in reality, there are kind of I call them values or common denominators that have a thread through, for instance, one of them, nobody in the workforce, no matter how young or how old, that doesn't want to feel respected. Respect, is something that we all want to have, wherever it is that we work. And I think a big one that I hit a lot about is this whole idea around communication. But the piece that may be we all want is that we want to be listened to. We don't want to be told necessarily, we want to be able to dialogue. And I think that that we've learned that in everybody in the workforce, whether we started with the silent generation, you know, down to the Z's, and so forth, everybody wants to be listened to one that may be defined a little bit differently is having mentoring opportunities. Now, I'm not sure we call it mentoring back, you know, with the silent generation or back with the baby boomers, but everybody had that colleague, or that best friend, that we could, and I'm sure you did, too, you know, there was that person we could go to, and they could tell us the hard truths, or they could give us a hug when we needed it. I think that is one of the values that all generations want to have in the workforce, we also want to be a part and we want to know what the big picture is all about. We don't like to be isolated, you know, I don't want you to know one piece. And you don't want me to have one piece because that relates to power. Yeah. And as much as we can erode that. And we can work together. But part of that is being able to see that big, huge picture. I also think along with the communication is such a big part, Brian, not only being listened to, but also being able to have effective communication back. I think all work all people of all ages want to be able to have what is called basic dialogue, want to be able to, to feed information to you, and you listen to it, and you feed it back to me. And we have some kind of commonality there. But once we have that, that's kind of the foundation of where we can all work from. And I think the last one, which is so key, is being able and experiencing ideas we've had will always have ideas, but ideas just shouldn't lie with us. And I see the need. And as I talked to people, everybody wants to be able to experience ideas to share and do all of that. So I think that's a little bit of what we all kind of have in common. And hopefully that kind of makes some sense. Does that resonate with you too, Brian?

Brian  
Yeah, totally. I think some of the points that you brought out are kind of intrinsic to like our needs. Right, right, you know, wanting, you know, respect, being heard, you know, collaboration, in fact, when you were saying that, I always say it's like bouncing ideas off someone. And absolutely, there's times when I want someone that's similar to my generation, because of the context and maybe who the audience may be. But there's other times I want to go find someone from a different perspective, does it resonate with them? How does this?

Or how, how does this audience, you know, consume this message? That's right, react to it. Because it's it can be different. They might have the same reaction, but the channel they go through is different. Like you said, it might be exactly first versus, you know, word of mouth or in person.

Mary Beth Ormiston  
You're absolutely right. I think it's fascinating, as we, you know, delve into this, this topic to to understand, in my opinion, I think we're more alike than different. But I always hear in conversations, and maybe you hear this too. Oh, you know, we have these five workforces, and I don't know how, you know, x, y, z see things or vice versa. And I think we tend to have buckets, and we say, Oh, we can't relate to them, or, you know, I don't have anything in common, instead of thinking about what we do have in common. So I think that kind of helps us as we begin to talk about in the workforce, you know, how do we manage it? I'm not sure I like that word manage. Maybe it's better: How do we lead? How do we lead all of us together, so that we end up with hopefully the same results, even though we may start out differently? I think about how I learned and I may learn differently. So part of that is I think we have an obligation. And and maybe it's a techniques that we have to learn. Because we have to be aware if we're in a work that place, whether we have that generational tension, sometimes it's perceived, sometimes it's real. But we need to understand that we all come from a different place in a different point in time. And we don't all want to be lead manager. However, those terminology we don't we don't all want to be look alike, I don't think so I think that is gives us an opportunity to be better at what we do in the work fate place. If we understand that we have to be aware of our surroundings, we can't live in that little, little bubble. And as you know, you made a very good point when we started out. organizations don't look like they did, maybe yesterday, 20 years ago, and they're not going to look the same tomorrow. Now maybe, from whence we come, we have different opinions on how they should look or what the timing should be. But I do think as we will work with different age groups, we have to we have to know what's real. And we you know, we have to understand that changes around us. I probably deal with change, maybe perhaps different than you do, or you know, any of any of our colleagues. So being aware that organizations don't look like they used to, you know, that was baby boomers say I'm not changing, you know, this is the way it's going to be. And even down to our Generation Z that doesn't have experienced, they don't know, you know, what was there? So we really need to be aware. I think a key point, Brian, is that, and one that I've learned, and I've heard this from other people is don't dwell on the differences. Yeah. Why don't why do we want to spend time on them? Let's let's talk about what we have in common. And we talked a little bit about them, you know, if we can, if we can feel the respective, we have great communication skills. Your experiences are wonderful, because they're not what I have, perhaps, and when we intertwine them, we leverage, and we come stronger, instead of pushing the boundaries out. So maybe what we're talking about here a little bit is being open to change. Defining relationships a little bit differently. I like collaboration, yeah, collaboration, you like that to work well with collaborate, because everybody brings something to the table. And you know, think of this wealth of information that we now have, from all of these people. And never before have we been able to sit around a table. 

I was in a training not too long ago, and I looked around the room. And it was fascinating to see who we were. And to think about that we were all there to participate in the same event. But I'll bet you whoever was sitting beside me on both sides, was assimilating it differently. But at the end of the day, hopefully, we all receive the same information, we have the opportunity to share it based on our experiences. And hopefully, that doesn't deviate for into differences, hopefully, through collaboration, it allows us to build Yeah, I also think when we cross generations that, as I was just hitting on a gives us more opportunities. Have you heard that the old thing, you know, I operate in a box, and I'm not getting out of my box, or I have, you know, all my circles, and I blew it and all those kinds of things? Well, you know, that's, that's probably true to some extent. But I think at the end of the day, with collaboration and opportunities and good communication, I think, then we have the opportunity to leverage what it is that we need to do, to gather and not be in our separate silos. The world is is not made of silos, or if it is, we're missing great opportunity. But, but also in it, I think it gives us the opportunity to look at like past two years, because just because we come from we're born in different years, doesn't mean that we don't have like paths that we can't, we may have different experiences that lead to those. But we do have like pass, I kind of like to say to people, as we as we try to work together, and we try to, to blend, you know, our different styles, and our teamwork and all those kinds of things and, and understanding what kind of communication that that we that we like, is that we need to think like an anthropologist, an anthropologist is, is the study of humanity. And I think right now in our history, what a rich thing that we can do is if we all approached our work as anthropologist, and maybe not what's on Twitter, or on Facebook, but how it is that we study humanity from whence it came to where we go, is a thought. Yeah, that's interesting. Just a little different way to think about it. So as we, you know, talk about who is it that's in the workforce? And how do we lead? We know we have we know, we have challenges because we have new trends. We have new regulations, perhaps that we haven't heard and old regulations that fall by the wayside. Perhaps we know that we have different styles of communication. Wow, I found you find that you have different styles of communication. I do.

Brian  
Oh, yeah. And I think definitely between generations, because there are certain common communication channels we all used, say growing up that maybe aren't here anymore, right? You know, to me, the perfect example is the traditional landline telephone. 

Mary Beth Ormiston  
Oh, yes, that's a great way. 

Brian  
This was the, the main and you're talking about sharing that across the family of anywhere between two and maybe up to eight people. Right, right. You know, having to make sure you took a message and delivered it, being considerate of others. You know, your time on the phone. I have an older sister, and I know that was one of our biggest challenges.

Yeah, we would want to call and see what our friends were doing down the street, and she was on the phone for a couple hours. But that affects your behavior. Uh huh. You know, I remember even like, maybe making calls before my sister got home when the phone was clear.

Mary Beth Ormiston  
Of course. And that's, that's about making choices. Yeah, that's right. Well, I remember going back to the times, where we didn't have immediate communication, you know, now everything is immediate. And so we have part of our generation at work, want everything immediate. I still remember taking a pink slip it writing it out for a message. And at sometimes going through my pink, I'm telling the secret here, taking my pink slips and saying, Now I'll call them back later. No, I'll deal with this right now. So it's a different way that we spell immediacy to. And technology Gee, they obviously has been the greatest changer of our society of how we have managed technology. When you were growing up and in first in the workforce, I wonder, did you take a look at what your life balance was between work and what you did outside of work? You know, this work life balance? conversation is so huge right now.

Brian  
You know, I would say so I'll give full disclosure. I'm a Gen X-er, so I started about 30 years ago in the workforce. Yeah. And yeah, I think it was starting to come in in the early phases, but it wasn't really prevalent. I think we still had a lot of carryover from the boomers and previous generations. Also, at that time, that PC was starting to bubble. So they still had kind of one foot in a lot of the traditional printed world, whether it was pink slips, writing memos, mail room, receiving letters. 

Mary Beth Ormiston  
Oh, yes. Those are all great examples. receiving letters. Oh, yes. 

Brian  
But within say, the next 10 years, that all dramatically shifted as email, the internet and the web started coming out. That dramatically changed how we were sharing information, consuming information, sending communications, etc. I'm an early adopter. So I kind of jumped on that early in the mid 90s. And I think my immaturity that time didn't make me realize, like, why isn't everybody else? Sure, that's right here so much better, but not really putting myself in their shoes as know, what's the value proposition for them was the learning curve. For them, I think I was kind of right place at the right time. So for me, it was fairly easy and native. But I remember trying to show my parents how to use a computer for the first time and getting somewhat frustrated.

Mary Beth Ormiston  
I'm sure.

Brian  
But also realizing like, they're not going to do the same thing I'm doing, I really just teach them. How do you open this up? How do you open an email? How do you send an email.

Mary Beth Ormiston  
That's right. Well, those are all great, you know, great examples that are the challenges that we we deal with in the workforce, because we're dealing with all five and we're you know, right now and and with the technology. And we have now the segment, because we talk about it every day is how do we balance work? How do we balance our fun. And that is a big transition. Within this, the challenges that we have, have were for some folks, their whole life was about work. It was really about work. And now we have we have our young folks that are coming out of college, many times they work to play. Yeah. And and how do we juggle so we have challenges as to how is it that we balance that in our work and environment. And I think part of that is the challenge of of understanding what motivates each and every one of us, because we're not all motivated the same. We don't all have that same interest. But at the end of the day, hopefully, we do have the same goal. But as we look at who sits beside us who's part of our team, somebody may motive but may be motivated by additional money. Some might be motivated by having more days off or working at home or whatever. And how is it that we communicate and understand that it's probably okay, we don't we don't have to be traditional and everything that we do. But we need to understand what works for you what works for me, but but does work within the system of our environment. So I think that we have exciting times here, because we have great wealth of knowledge, we have the opportunity. Now we're before we didn't have latitude in what we do, that we have all of these experiences that we can gain. Sometimes we have that love hate relationship with history. But sometimes history does teach us as to what we can do better. And it also provides a platform of understanding as we work towards making the very best of our work environments. I think leaders are challenged more than they've ever been challenged before. From whether we have young leaders or older leaders, or how is it that we understand our business, and how we're going to be a success in our business, how our business is going to be successful. I think that in what I learned and what I am talking about is those leaders that can lift up all segments of our workforce and collaborate and understand who is it that makes up our base will be the strongest organizations and businesses out there. Because those are the ones that understand history are building towards the future.

Brian  
I agree with you, I think if you try to just say we're going to stick to what's worked, right, whether for our company organization or for our age group, you're going to fail, because you brought up a very important point that I think is constant. That's change. Yes, yes, changes. It's kind of like gravity. It's always happening. It's always there. You may not see it, but it's it's you're going to be reminded of it periodically, depending on what the challenge may be, or the project or different circumstance.

Mary Beth Ormiston  
I agree. I think the other I think there's two and you hit the first one, I think the second one is no matter what what the age group, there is still always going to be the need for interpersonal relationships, that we all at some point, need to be able to be eyeball to eyeball and be able to, to see reactions be able to hear, technology will probably only get stronger. And that's the balance of how do we balance technology with our interpersonal skills.

Brian  
Mary Beth, thank you so much for coming in and talking about this. I think it's a great topic. We could probably talk for another few hours, we probably could. But we'll go ahead and wrap it up here. Want to thank you also for joining us today on the operate intelligently podcast and until next time, I'm your host Brian McDonald joining you from dude solutions. 

Thank you for listening to the Operate Intelligently Podcast produced by Dude Solutions. You can reach us by emailing dspodcast@dudesolutions.com or check us out on the web at dudesolutions.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

 

 

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