With today’s fast-paced society, it’s difficult to stay engaged with the shifting job market, healthfields, and employment structures. Add generation gaps on top of an ever-changing culture, and staying connected becomes even more challenging. However, engaging with people from different generations is necessary in virtually every career. You will likely work with (and for) people who are older than you, and you will also likely work with (and for) younger people. Here are some ideas to keep in mind the next time you’re trying to stay connected and on the same page with someone from a different generation.
Understand that you have both something to learn, and something to offer. Insperity, an HR strategy-developing company, is implementing a mentoring program in which people from multiple generations mentor each other (according to Inc.’s web article). Instead of viewing yourself as only a teacher or only a student, view yourself as someone who is always learning and ready to teach. By being willing to both learn and teach, you will be able to interact well with people from different generations because you’ll be confident but humble. According to Chip Conley’s TED Talk (linked in an HR Technologist article), generations can learn from each other. Conley stressed that the younger generations are tech geniuses, while the older generations have had time to improve their relational abilities and strategies. “It’s hard to microwave your emotional intelligence,” Conley stresses. Each generation, and each person within that generation, has an area of expertise. Realizing that you can learn from everyone will help you to show each person the respect they deserve.
Address generation-specific learning preferences. According to HR Technologist, learning experiences must be personalized in order to “improve retention and application of new knowledge and skills on the job.” Different generations have different learning needs, and different generations have different expectations. Prepare for this by first truly getting to know the people you’re working with, as Inc.’s web article suggests. Then, notice which learning strategies the people around you prefer. Do they take notes by hand? Then, print out a copy of whatever material you are showing them. Are they constantly on their phone? Perhaps suggest a useful app. By taking the time to get to know and respond to your bosses, coworkers, and employees, you will be engaging with them in their preferred format, and increasing their ability to understand and respond to you in a positive and productive way.
Characterize yourself and your interactions with genuineness. Morgan Philips suggests that “having an honest and authentic company culture and purpose will transcend above any technological trend or new idea.” Ultimately, strive to communicate with honesty and openness. If you don’t know something, ask. If you’re confused, state it politely and respectfully. If you disagree, do so with kindness and courtesy. By cultivating an honest culture where people are encouraged to be inquisitive and learn, you will help generations to connect with one another in a spirit of generosity and a mindset of growth. Your role in this environment will look different depending on your place within the company, but you can help cultivate a connected culture by being honest, loving, and learning-oriented.
As long as you respect people, treat them honestly, and are genuinely interested in them, working with people from multiple generations will be a growing and impactful experience. Show people the value and respect that they deserve, and notice how uplifted and encouraged they feel. As you seek to learn and grow, people will be blessed as a result of your intentional interaction, and friendships may even develop out of these purposeful relationships.
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