By Patricia Rascon, Southwestern Regional Compliance Manager
For the first time in history our workforce is comprised of five different generations. The three main groups are Baby Boomers born 1946-1964, Generation X born 1965-1980, and Generation Y born between 1981-1995. Add in some of the Traditional generation born before 1945 and the now emerging Linkster’s born after 1995, and the question arises… how do we merge the generations in the workplace and create a cohesive team environment?
Recently this topic came up while talking with “Steve”, a forty-five-year member of our industry. I was telling him about CIFAC’s new Contract Compliance software that gives us Compliance Managers the ability to create and track our investigations, upload photos, write letters and reports. Essentially, we can work from anywhere! He then reminisced about rotary phones, electric typewriters; carbon paper and Xerox reproduction machines the size of a double deep freezer! Tenured employees were of the culture that communication was done through regular meetings, letters, formal memos, and phone calls. In summary, he said, “Boomers had to learn things the hard way. In addition, they had to memorize what they learned. Generation X, Y rely on the internet to get information. However, the internet has just information; it does not tell you how to communicate. Communication is rational”. Fast forward to cellphones, computers, tablets, and the like, that provide us with the ability to take our office on location rather than shuttling between the two.
While merging technology with tradition and experience, we can bridge the gap and complement each generation by striving to create a diverse team. Utilizing the strengths of all can build strong relationships. In their book Generations, Inc. Meagan and Larry Johnson write about a common practice among Japanese companies where they pair a seasoned mentor “Sempai” with a younger mentee “Kohai”. In addition to the Sempai’s managerial duties, his/her job is to help the Kohai succeed in all areas to include technical and operational questions and organizational politics. The book reminds us to capture Boomers knowledge so all is not lost when retirement calls. On the other end of the spectrum, Generation Y appears to seek balance, not necessarily a nine-to-five workday, but setting their own hours. They understand technology is rapidly changing and they are very interested in continual skill development. They want to contribute right away and stability comes from the ability to balance work and life goals, opportunities for learning and belief that they are supporting company goals.
The one size fits all approach doesn’t work, to manage effectively means we must adjust and be flexible. To sum it up… “Life is rather like a tin of sardines-we’re all of us looking for the key”
-Alan Bennett, British author, actor, humorist, and playwright