When American journalist, Doug Larson said “Sometimes opportunity knocks, but most of the time it sneaks up and then quietly steals away,” he probably wasn’t thinking about high-performing teams, but his words perfectly describe the time-sensitive opportunity today’s multi-generational workforce makes possible. Suggesting we better act now because this is a limited time only opportunity might sound cheesy, but it is incredibly appropriate because our most seasoned employees are retiring in droves and the door that opens to the most amazing “A Team” in the history of business is quickly closing. While a multi-generational team represents the most comprehensive collection of perspectives, skill, and expertise ever witnessed, the logical outcome holds an even greater promise. When Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials team up, over 100 years of combined business experience may very well create Generational Synergies with game-changing results. And each generation has a valuable role to play.
Traditionalists will contribute dedication, discipline, and collaboration with an underpinning of fiscal responsibility. Providing much more than 50 years of experience, Traditionalists hold the wisdom to create a solid launch pad, and proven guidelines for success. With life experiences influenced by the Great Depression and World War II, they are seasoned with the complexities of cultural and industrial challenges with problem solving skills so ingrained, they have become intuitive. Add the time-stamped wisdom that can only come with experience, and Traditionalists have the ability to keep the team grounded and focused.
As the first generation to dominate the workforce, Baby Boomers are innovative and tenacious, and known for being team players. The Vietnam War, the Cold War, and the Civil Rights Movement provided a backdrop for their life experiences and created the largest group of change advocates the world had ever seen. Personal drive and intestinal fortitude were critical for the Baby Boomer generation whose sheer numbers required them to compete for the right to participate in academics and sports, as well as for limited career opportunities. For Baby Boomers, failure is not an option, and they will motivate and inspire the team to deliver measurable value, exceptional quality, and competitive advantage.
Generation X (Gen X), brings technical skills and objectivity to keep the multi-generational team balanced and focused on results. Influenced by the energy crisis, downsizing, and high divorce rates, the life experiences that shaped them, also equipped them with the skepticism and self-reliance that make them valuable members of the team. Gen Xers will not be swayed by cultural norms. They will question the status quo, and challenge the team to work smarter, eliminate tasks, and optimize results. Look to Generation X to lead the team to bigger, better, forward-thinking outcomes with contagious confidence and conviction.
Last, but certainly not least, are the Millennials. This generation, known for their ability to multi-task, will provide task management to the team with a depth and breadth of knowledge way beyond their years. Influenced by digital media, electronic scheduling, and helicopter parents, Millennials are accomplished strategists who think and act at the speed of light while constantly measuring risk factors and making appropriate alterations with speed and agility. The team will always know what they need to know when the Millennial team member is unencumbered by “the way we’ve always done it”. When allowed to simply do what they do best, a Millennial will fuel the team with energy and contagious optimism.
Let’s review. For the first time in history, there are four generations in the workforce. Each generation brings tremendous value with contributions resulting from the unique life experiences they share as a defined demographic. In a few short years the most seasoned contributors (Traditionalists and older Baby Boomers) will leave the workplace with their wisdom and expertise if it isn’t passed down to the younger generations. The newest generation (Millennials), who now make up over 50% of the workforce, are seeking interaction with their elders and have demonstrated they will exit if they aren’t allowed to contribute in a meaningful way. And Generation X is more than ready to coordinate the effort. Opportunity is knocking but will soon be quieted. This is the time to open the door and reap the benefits.