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Bridging the Generation Gap, Part I

Looking down the center of a bridge.

Bridging the Technical Gap Between Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomer’s with Good, Old Fashioned Communication.

Certainly the Baby Boomer and Gen X’er’s have come to recognize the reality of the technical deficit they suffer from in relation to most of their Generation Y counterparts. Technical competency is far more common place among our younger workforce but many have a decided deficiency in the Low-Tech ability to communicate – either verbally or in written form.

Most of us work in what is now coined a “multi-generational environment” it has always been that way and for the most part will always be that way – so what has changed? The transformational changes in technology over the past two decades created a knowledge and skill gap between the generations – simple as that. Recognizing, accepting and managing this reality accordingly is the trick. There has been much written and said about how Baby Boomers and Gen X ‘ers should manage the Generation “Y” workforce – and also how to navigate being managed by a Generation Y era manager. Nuance and subtlety aside – it all begins with gracefully teaching Y ‘ers communication skills and learning how to communicate with them in a manner in which they will respond. (positively)

Lessons For You – The Baby Boomer or Gen X ‘er.

Recognizing that many (certainly not all) Y Gen workers have some gaps in the style in substance of how they communicate within the reality of a multi-generational work force, is the first step. These are what we used to refer to as “teachable moments”. Define for them the culture and format in which your company prefers (or mandates) all forms of communication – and then work with them to develop the tools to meet that standard.

1) Define the Chain of command – what is it and why do we follow it? (or not)

2) Structure and documentation of inter-office communication – define what is expected

3) Use of texting and social media as a form of inter-office communication – define what is appropriate

4) Teach the basics of any good communication – Who, What, Where, Why, When and How Much.

5) Teach them to be precise and efficient with their written and verbal skills

6) Remember what your English professor taught you. Introduction – “Tell us what you are going to tell us” the Body – “Tell us” and the Summary – “Remind us again what you told us”.

7) Punctuation and spelling MATTER. The time is not yet here when business communication allows for constant abbreviations, no capitalizations and or sloppy

spelling and grammar. If it is worth writing – it is worth writing well.

8) Teach them to pick up the telephone and call someone to communicate – especially if they wish to communicate with an older Gen X ‘er or a Baby Boomer.

9) Teach them to be polite and to be good listeners.

10) In a general sense – Teach Generation Y ‘ers – don’t just Tell them things. Generation X ‘ers and Baby Boomers don’t do very well with understanding technology when younger folks just tell them about it. You need to be taught – so do they.

11) Use your time teaching and interacting with the younger workforce to learn from them and look for ways to adapt their norms into the company when appropriate.

12) A failure to adapt your management style to a new generation of workers is a failure of your management style – not the failure of an entire generation of younger workers. Be flexible and patient – and they will be too.

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