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The most recent season of the competitive reality television show Survivor featured two initial tribes of ten new castaways divided by generation: Gen X, born between 1963 and 1982, and millennials, born between 1983 and 1997. The battle to break the stereotypes beholden by each generation was made clear on the very first episode – but the reality is it’s not just made-for-TV fodder. It’s likely these battles are going on every day in your own office.
There’s no question that Survivor is banking on the stereotypes about millennials and Gen Xers. Very few (if any) of the millennials cast on the show seemed to hold traditional jobs – with many of them running their own blogs, YouTube channels, etc. On the other hand, the Gen Xers were characterized right off the bat as hardworking individualists. Keep in mind this social experiment is created to be both entertaining and dramatic for television. That said, a generational divide in your office is anything but.
Who Has the Advantage?
In your workplace, you don’t want anyone getting voted off the island. To manage harmoniously across generations, you need to create a friendly and noncompetitive incubation situation for these groups; so people from various generations can talk, share and start to understand each other’s differences. CompTIA recently released the Quick Start Guide to Managing a Multigenerational Workforce that compiles research and practical advice on how to successfully manage the differences in technology, office culture and communication within today’s multigenerational workforce.
Prevent Technology Castaways
Instead of focusing on the differences amongst generations, play on individual strengths. Millennials understand systems, mechanisms and tools. They grew up with technology and are considered digital natives. Play on this strength by making these people group leaders. Mine their knowledge and let them teach others what tools to use and how. There’s a clear trend toward stronger technology use as workers get younger. Businesses don’t have to be cutting edge to succeed, just able to utilize new technology when the situation calls for it.
Create an Employee Alliance
Employee well-being and a company’s impact on society are more important in today’s office culture than ever, and rank higher than short-term financial goals and personal financial benefit, according to research from Deloitte. In today’s office, you have to make people’s time matter and give them choices. Creativity flows when people are allowed to be authentic, and sometimes that’s not possible under the glare of fluorescent lights. Let people be themselves and they’ll not only perform better but are also more likely to stick with you.
Win the Communication Challenge
Phone calls, fax machines and even email can feel outmoded in the world of video chats and instant messaging. Thankfully, the medium matters less than the message. People want to understand and be understood, no matter what generation. Workers new to office culture need more regular communication than workers in the past. Managers should consider asking their younger reports how things are going, what’s not working, what they need help with and what we can celebrate.
Recognizing the difference between generations – and individuals – is the first step toward harmony. When you realize what the other generation has to offer, you can leverage their strengths with your strengths and work together to create something great. And, in case you’re wondering, after 39 days on the island, a millennial was the last man standing on this latest Survivor competition!
Download your copy of CompTIA’s Quick Start Guide to Managing a Multigenerational Workforce today!