Have you ever wondered why getting your message through to others and motivating them into action can be so tough at times? Have you noticed that communicating with your teenagers is vastly different than communicating with your parents? In addition to working with individuals who all have their own behavioral styles, the multi-generational nature of our work force is a force to be reckoned with. Since communication is one of the major contributors to human error on the hangar floor, we need to constantly maintain and develop our communication skills across our work force.
Trying to understand generation-specific frustrations, motives, and values will help us work with, communicate, and share ideas with colleagues from our multi-generation work force. To work together we must understand the following key factors that define a generation:
- Unique work ethics;
- Different perspectives on work;
- Distinct and preferred ways of managing
- Unique ways of viewing quality;
- Different priorities that effect how and when they show up for work.
The remainder of this article discusses the characteristics that describe the different generations. While these may be broad and overgeneralized in some regards, everyone will be able to recognize their friends and teammates who have these characteristics.
In most organizations we may be working and communicating with
- Veteran Generation (veterans), born between 1933 – 1945 (ages 60-72)
- Boomer Generation (boomers), born between 1946 – 1964 (ages 41-59)
- Generation X, (gen X’ers) born between 1965 – 1976 (ages 29-40)
- Millennials Generation Y (gen Y’ers), born between 1977 – 1998 (ages 7-28)
Most vesterans employ a “Work First!” attitude. If you are working with a veteran, take the time to get to know their background, experiences, work preferences, and personal needs. In the workplace veterans like to contribute, are loyal, disciplined, and appreciate courtesy. To communicate to them be patient and take the time to explain new ideas; they may be stubborn. Their work must be satisfying, utilizing their skill and expertise. They have a strong work ethic. They like to be asked for advice, then expect you to listen to them. Use the personal touch. Thank them in writing. Veterans want to work in an atmosphere with living, breathing humans, not voice mail or emails. Remember that they did not grow up with computers, video games, fly-by-wire systems, and advanced computer-controlled aircraft systems. They may have adapted to more change in their lives than any currently working generation.
The boomers “Live to Work!” In the work force they are driven to compete, seek to improve, and are hard workers. They grew up knowing that to survive they had to work and to work hard. They want to be challenged and valued; they want to be part of success. To communicate with boomers show them respect for their skills, knowledge, and potential. Give them clear goals and guidelines with the freedom and flexibility to do things their way. Give constructive feedback, take an interest in them as a friend. Boomers have embraced the computer revolution, know what the workplace was like before the advent of computers, and probably learned to type on a manual typewriter. On the shop floor, they probably learned to do tasks without the aid of computer diagnostics and now have had to learn how to use computers.
It takes diplomatic skill and patience to get Matures, Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials to work together.
At COS, the cadets have a unique opportunity to learn about the Air Force, airpower history, leadership, teamwork, communication skills and problem solving.
Insights for a healthy and productive workplace in challenging economic times.