Workplace training helps bridge generation gaps

By Terri StoverSeptember 27, 2019

Workplace training helps bridge generation gaps
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Security Assistance Command employees had the opportunity Friday to learn more about navigating a multigenerational workplace in a generational diversity workshop.

Kristin Scroggin, speaker and managing partner of genWHY Communication Strategies, presented what is an increasingly hot topic in the workforce: how the various generations can understand each other, avoid workplace conflict and build cohesion.

Generational diversity is defined as having a wide range of different ages in the workplace. Scroggin shared the childhood years between 1 and 15 help determine a person's work culture.

"We have to look at what was happening economically, if we were at war, what was in the pop culture, and social settings," to see what was shaping each generation, she said.

Half of the world's population is 30 and younger, while 46% of the U.S. population is under 33. Yet, in the federal government, the largest number of employees are in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

When this older generation shifts out of the workforce they will take with them knowledge, established processes and skills that some younger generations do not possess. This workplace shift could see large numbers of employees leaving at the same time, which would negatively impact readiness, productivity and effectiveness.

"We have a potential crisis in the workplace if we do not look at increasing our leadership and mentoring programs and training," she said. "We need to be real clear about the hard and soft skills we expect from our younger generations, if we want them to progress in their jobs.

"A way to do this is to increase your weekly check-ins with your staff. Don't wait until the end of the year to talk about how to improve. Your check-ins don't have to be formal."

The younger generations tend to need a sense of purpose, both in their work and their private life. Allowing the different generations the opportunity to bring to the workplace the best of each age group will create an atmosphere of interconnectedness.

"Small investments you can make now in your workplace will help build cohesiveness, or you will never have a high functioning office," she said.

The five generations in the workplace defined by genWHY Communication Strategies are: Traditionalists (1925-45), Baby Boomers (1946-64), Generation X (1964-84), Millennials (1985-2005) and Gen Z (after 2006). Many offices include members from all five generations, however, the Traditionalists are leaving the workforce as more and more Millennials enter the workforce.

Through her energetic and humorous style, Scroggin was able to further break down each generation into micro-generations to better understand the reasons generations are defined as they are.

"Your personality is the most complex part of you," she said. "Many factors define and refine your personality."

Traditionalists lived through the Great Depression and fought in WWII. They tend to enforce rules, and live by guidelines and traditions. The second half of that time frame is called the Silent Generation. They are considered the most loyal, and "mega sacrificers," as they lived through the lean years of WWII.

Baby Boomers are the children of those who fought in WWII. Their jobs and identities are so intertwined, they tend to verbally confirm their worth by stating they have a job or what is that job. The second half of this generation is called Flower Children. There was a lot of social change taking place in their youth.

GenXers tend to be the least social. They can be defined as "just go to work and leave on time." Most report they will retire at 57, they want to retire before they die. The subgroup of this generation is called Xennials. Computers became commonplace in their youth, which has helped them move around the Internet very well, looking up anything they need to know.

"The most hated generation is the Millennials," Scroggin said. "However, we shouldn't hate a generation that we helped create."

The older portion of this generation makes up the majority of our U.S. population, but they do not have the financial power of the Traditionalists or Boomers. They can be heard to say, "We hate everything you did and we're going to change it." The younger set of this generation is called iGEN, because they have always had access to iPods, iPads, iPhones, etc.

GenZ is too young to be part of the workforce now, but it would be wise to look at what has shaped them and what type of workers they will be in the future.