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Dealing with multi-generations at work

Madi Radulescu, MBA, ACC

Managing Partner of MMM Consulting International

(www.mmmconsulting.ro)

 

25 years ago when I started to work the problem of generations was as evident as it is today. And, occasions when I had different opinions or views and habits compared to my parents were not few. I definitely made decisions in my life that were not necessarily well understood at the beginning, by my parents or by my boss at that time, however I found support and I was able to move on building up my career.

What was different 25 years ago? Looking around we see that the main difference comes from our way to interact to one another: it was much more personal. No mobile phones, almost no email at that time, no video conferencing, no virtual teams. We were still studying, reading books, asking questions, preparing executive summaries and reading and talking again.

What is happening TODAY inside companies? Studies about the new generations – the so-called Generation Y or Millenias (those born after 1982) – started to appear around the year 2000. Of course, the reason for this was that 15 years ago, this new generation knocked on the door of corporations and started to challenge our way of doing things. I remember at that time, being manager already, having quite large responsibilities in terms of people and money, and not necessarily considering the impact of this new Generation Y. Today, I manage a team where 80 percent of my people belong to this generation. Moreover, globally, in 2018 a third the total global workforce will belong to generation Y. In 15 years from now one entire generation, the so-called Generation X, will be retired.

Every single company faces one of the greatest challenges in their history: the following 15 years will belong to both Generation X (most probably a large part of the management will belong to this group) and Generation Y (and most probably an even larger part of the management the companies will grow up from this group).

What is so different with this Generation Y?

The most important impact on our lives over the last 15 years has been given by technology. We – Generation X – learned to deal with it, integrated it in our work, professional and personal life. However our brain, our rationale and our social habits belonged to an era where technology was not present at this level. Compared to us, Generation Y grew up with the email, virtual teams, remote working, chatting, messaging, texting and so on.

For example, and this is very important to consider, the span of attention lowered from 12 seconds to 8 seconds between the year 2000 and 2013. This means our brain is not focusing anymore on a single item for more than eight seconds on average. This has a fundamental impact on our productivity, focus, human interactions at work and we need to find solutions for meetings, projects, training, personal and professional development to raise the level of awareness and generate solutions. E-mail coming one after the other, multiple tasking, a lot of meetings, much more diversity, a lot more tasks, and different ways of interacting one to each other: it is difficult any way. But, when you have under the roof two perspectives on how to relate to this, it becomes even more difficult.

Research also shows that more than 50 percent of Generation Y prefer video instead of texting. This detail alone gives us a lot of insights on potential problems at work but also on opportunities on how to deal with it. Generation X discovered email as the most beautiful tool to makes work easier. And we started to use it and overuse it. Generation Y is much more visual, they enjoy learning through movies, video conferencing and skype because they’ve grown up with movies from Discovery channel to Animal planet. They use chat or messaging in parallel, and we can understand why their boss, may think they lose their time, do things behind their back, not paying attention and being superficial.  Quite a lot of prejudice in the workplace that influences productivity, teamwork and the level of trust.

I work with Generation X managers (40-45 years) that are not even aware of the immediate need to adapt their leadership style to a totally new way of dealing with life and work. They simply do not understand and see how to motivate them and create engagement, and the easiest way to deal with it is to become judgemental.

These are only some aspects that require today’s corporation to negotiate and adjust working habits from meetings, reporting to the way people learn. Most probably the era of lectures, long PowerPoints and ambiguous work instructions has ended. We have together with us a generation that needs to understand WHY. Much more entrepreneurial, intrapreneurial, fast and future oriented.

 

Managing Partner and founder of MMM Consulting Intl (www.mmmconsulting.ro [1]), Madi Radulescu has over 20 years of entrepreneurship, training and consulting experience. She has worked in 9 European markets with participants from 14 countries mainly at top management and board member level, in management development programs, workshops, team facilitation processes, performance management and strategy.

MBA at the Warwick University UK, DPM OU UK, MSc. Engineering; ACC – ICF  Executive Coach.