How do I manage “them”? What are “they” thinking? How do I sell to “them”?

You might be wondering “who” is “them”? “Them” is anyone who is unlike you! As an HR and Training professional, I frequently receive calls from clients asking how to bridge the chronological divide and the reference to “them” most frequently describes someone in another generation.

What is a generation?

A generation is a group of people who share a place in history, who were programmed at about the same time. What gives each generation its unique character is the set of experiences and events they shared during their most formative years.

Generational experiences define who we are! I remember the Beatles on an album cover, I dreamed of walking across Abbey Road. Other generations may only experience the Beatles as a “look alike” cover band or the focus of a recent movie that highlighted the rise to stardom of a Beatle “wannabe”. These generational experiences are our history and ingrained as though a part of our DNA. To grow we must learn to adapt and adopt generational diversity.

There are currently five generations in the workplace and the chronological, experiential, and style differences create challenges in management, communication, sales, and training.

These five generations include:

Veterans – a.k.a. Traditionalists/Silent Generation (born before 1945)

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

Generation X (1965-1980)

Generation Y –aka Millennials (1981 – 1995)

Generation Z / Generation 2020 (1996 – 2015+)

Most organizations consider multi-generations from an internal company perspective; how do I hire, train, or lead “them”? I have frequently been asked, “Can’t I hire more people like me”? Depending on your generation, the answer may be yes or no! If you are a Baby Boomer, your peers may be leaving the workforce to retire or reinventing their definition of work. If you are in Generation X, the smallest generation, there may not be a supply of talent available. If you are a Gen Y, the largest generation, you may have many candidates to consider. Generational diversity in an organization helps foster creative ideas and problem solving.

I once facilitated a session on multi-generational workplace dynamics at a convention where the keynote speaker had played a lead role in the Apollo 11 mission. He mentioned something that stuck with me. The age of the average employee in mission control back then was 25-34. The people charged with bringing Apollo 11 back safely to earth were the ages of our current Generations Y and Z. It was eye-opening! You may be thinking: A 26-year-old in 1969 is different from a 26-year-old in 2019. That could be a fair assessment. Twentysomethings today have been raised mostly by helicopter parents — they got accolades and trophies without many boundaries. Baby Boomers might say: “This generation is nothing like mine”. But with Boomers retiring and Gen X too small to fill the void, Gen Y and Gen Z are the bulk of our available workforce bringing a wealth of technology and social media experience.

So, how can you help “them” succeed?  One way is to train them in crucial business skills they may not have learned in school. (How do you interact in a meeting? How do you get your boss’s attention in a positive way? What is the most effective way to communicate with your boss?) The other method is to communicate, listen and be open to ideas…even if you have heard them before.

Here are some tips.

Veterans – Anchor messages to history, use proper grammar, let them tell war stories.

Baby Boomers – Share your credentials and tenure, they relate to paper handouts with bigger type.

Generation X – Give information in a direct, honest manner, no company lingo or buzz words.

Generation Y – Grab attention within 3 seconds, tie messages to the triple-bottom line: company, society, and environment, value  their opinion.

Generation Z – Want open and free access to information, believe people are the human form of Google.

What is the generational diversity of your customers? How do you communicate and sell to customers in a way that will impact their desire to purchase your product or service? Focus the same communication style with your customers and employees and consider generational training for those who interact and sell to the public.

To foster teamwork, innovate and grow your business, learn to adapt to and appreciate generational diversity.

If you are interested in this topic for your organization or convention, contact me contact me at glenna@glennahecht.com or call 855-447-4111. for further information.