Young blood can rejuvenate your company, if you know how to work with Gen Y

David  May 12, 2014

 | May 11, 2014 7:30 AM ET

Financial Post

Recent news reports indicate that transfusions of young blood can reverse the aging process and “recharge” the brain, improving memory and learning. So it shouldn’t surprise you that the same phenomenon applies to business: infusions of young blood can rejuvenate tired organizations and fill them with new energy and purpose.

But how do you manage a workforce teeming with aging boomers, disconnected Generation Xers, and the idealistic, always-on Millennials known as Generation Y?

A recent conference in Toronto organized by the Conference Board of Canada explored “Successful Strategies for the Multigenerational Workplace.” The consensus: employers have to be more deliberate and flexible if they hope to get the best results from the collaboration of three generations with such different attitudes and life experiences.

Adwoa K. Buahene of n-gen People Performance Inc. set the stage by identifying the unique aspects of each generation. The greying Baby Boomers, now aged 50 to 68, are still the most influential group in most organizations, she said. Even after five decades of leading wide-ranging social change, she says Boomers aren’t finished yet: “Their goal is to put their stamp on things.”

Generation X is the smaller cohort, born from 1965 to 1980, sandwiched between the Boomers and the Boomers’ children. Buahene says the rallying cry of the aging Xer is, “Where’s the recognition of the value I create for this organization?”

One problem for Boomer bosses, she notes, is that only 33% of Xers are interested in becoming leaders. Boomers love to take charge, so they’re puzzled by Xers who don’t need to prove their worth through work. According to Buahene, Gen X’s response to opportunity is “I’m good. I have interesting projects. I have enough money.”

But your toughest management challenge may be Generation Y. Born between 1981 and 2000, they’re active connectors and doers. “Xs do not understand Ys, and Ys do not understand Xs,” Buahene says. And that creates another “clash point,” she says, since it’s the Xs who most often directly manage the Ys.

Buahene got the laugh of the day when she reconstructed a typical chat between a Gen X manager and a new recruit. “Office hours are 8:30 to 5:30,” says the boss. “Every day?” asks Gen Y. “Who works like that?”

Among its other characteristics, Gen Y is tribal. Unlike Boomers, who are fiercely loyal to their organizations, Ys tend to be loyal not vertically, but horizontally. So the programmers in your consumer-products division might bond with other programmers — across your organization, and even at competing organizations — rather than with the colleagues in their own division.

Keep reading: http://business.financialpost.com/2014/05/11/young-blood-can-rejuvenate-your-company-if-you-know-how-to-work-with-gen-y/

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