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Gen-Mix workplace is a challenge for today's managers

Today’s labor force includes four generations: Millennials (born 1978 and afterward), Gen Xers (1965-1977), Baby Boomers (1946-1964) and Veterans (1925-1945), whose respective workers each have their own work styles and expectations.
by Paula Burkes Modified: May 27, 2014 at 12:00 pm •  Published: May 25, 2014

Kearns’ advice to managers of Millennials?

“Treat them as a colleague versus a newbie, offer flexible schedules, be crystal clear on goals and deadlines, and then leave them alone. Don’t wait until an annual review to give feedback,” Kearns said. “Deliver praise, recognition and reward as soon as possible. Mention negatives once and then let them go.”

Quality relationships with their managers are critical to Millennials, Kearns said.

For Gen-Xers, ask what will motivate them to stay with the organization, she said. Gen-Xers, because they grew up in mostly dual-earner or divorced families, are resourceful, self-reliant and value control, she said. “To retain them, companies must become known as learning organizations obsessed with training and development,” she said.

Gen-Xers, Kearns said, often will make lateral moves simply to experience something different.

The older set

Don’t tell baby boomers what to do, but coach and challenge them to try new ideas, Kearns said. Veterans, she said, often need to be encouraged to make decisions, versus looking to authority figures as they did in traditional workplaces.

BOK Financial trains Millennials to set goals and how to best connect with older generations, said Charles Sparks, director of talent and organizational development. Simultaneously, the bank trains those who manage Millennials on the importance of giving ongoing performance feedback, managing their career aspirations and creating a collaborative environment.

New trainees are assigned both junior and senior mentors, Sparks said. “The junior mentor typically has a year or two experience in the company, is in the same generation, and is there to help the new trainee navigate the company, learn the hierarchy and offer advice from their recent experiences,” he said.

“With the senior mentor, we hope to facilitate an opportunity for the new trainee to develop a comfortable and confidential relationship with an experienced employee to help guide their career and keep them engaged,” he said.

Seeking common ground

Etiquette expert Carey Sue Vega believes the key is for employees to understand what they have in common.

“Everyone wants to be heard and valued for their contributions, to know how they’re doing, (to have)trustworthy leaders, and to learn,” said Vega, who recently led a training at Citizens Bank of Edmond on etiquette in the GenMix workplace.

“Throw in common insecurities and desire for power and you have disrespect, which is the antithesis of etiquette and professionalism,” Vega said.

by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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Working together

The generation mix in the workplace:

•Millennials (born between 1978 and 1995) — 24.8 percent*

•Gen Xers (1965-1977) — 44.3 percent

•Baby Boomers (1946-1964) — 29 percent

•Veterans (1925-1945) — 0.9 percent

* Based on a 2010 federal labor bureau report. Millennials are expected to have the most workers in the labor force by this year or next, studies show. For every new worker who enters the labor force, two experienced workers leave.


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