Understanding distinct generational differences and how to flex to meet each group and individual in a personal and supportive way is key to building teams and retaining the best talent
Karen McCullough remembers a time when Big Data was a rapper from Detroit. “Back in 2006, the cloud was something in the sky. 4G was your parking spot. Applications were something you filled out for college,” McCullough says. “Life was easier back then.”
But then the iPhone launched and the world changed. Over the past decade the technological changes have been fast and furious. And in trying to keep up with these innovations and advancements, we’re failing to recognize the biggest change of all – people.
“People are the change we have to deal with every day – getting along with each other,” McCullough points out. “We have to stay sharp and continue to learn and we have to be curious about people who are younger and older than us.”
And this curiosity, about different generations, is key for business success. Today’s companies already employ baby boomers, generation X and millennials and they’re about to open the doors to another new generation. While it’s wrong to overly stereotype, it is right to recognize each generation has different characteristics and strengths and needs to be treated differently if an organization wants their teams to thrive.
“If you don’t understand the generations and you have a lack of generational awareness, you are not going to grow your teams,” McCullough warns. “You are not going to have productivity and you are not going to have innovation.”
That’s because the days of one size fits all and treat everyone the same are over. This means businesses are facing challenges when it comes to integrating people into the company.
“In order for people to feel embedded in their organization they have to feel three things – connected, protected, respected – CPR,” explains McCullough, “CPR engagement, breathing life into your organization.”
And of course different generations of people require different things in order for the CPR to be effective.
“We have to learn about people, we have to understand their emotions. We have to have conversations with them and pull out their beliefs, their experiences and we have to observe their behaviors,” McCullough says “All of these things now are becoming that human part of work.”
This is also why everyone at a company should view themselves as a teacher and a mentor and start to understand the different approaches needed to get the most from the different generations within a team or across the enterprise.
For example, the baby boomer generation is reaching retirement age so knowledge transfer is going to be a huge issue for a number of businesses.
“How are you going to get this information from them?” McCullough asks.
The answer is to understand that generation’s strengths. They’re storytellers and are the masters of building face-to-face business relationships. Therefore, avoid classroom situations and use social activities and conversations.
Likewise, Gen Z is about to enter the workforce. What are companies going to do to make Generation Z feel welcome and valued?
“These are people who are 18 and younger. They’re going to universities right now and guess what colleges are learning? They’re totally different from millennials,” reveals McCullough. “Millennials are highly social. This group is much more introspective.”
That means that employees and managers need to take a responsibility to engage with these people and give them the confidence they need so that they can meet their potential at work and feel comfortable in their roles.
“We should stop thinking of people as old or young and start thinking of them as a resource. But if you are older, or younger, or in between, you have to be curious,” says McCullough. “You have to be curious about things you don’t know about and you have to be open to listening and open to hearing and not doing all of the talking. You have to understand new perspectives.”
Watch McCullough’s full keynote here.