Embracing Generational Differences in the Workplace?

On a recent #TChat, the topic was Generations in the Workplace.  It’s always intriguing to hear people talk about this in HR because this isn’t a “new” issue.  There have been generations in the workplace – FOREVER!

Also, many HR people and consultants alike tend to want to take this topic to the point of emphasizing the differences between generations instead of focusing on their strengths.  HR would be such a powerful force in organizations if we broke the paradigm of “Let’s fix what’s wrong or different” and instead approached issues from a position of strength and identified how these differences make us more valuable.

Let me give you an example . . .

Growing up, I got hooked on rock music and one of the first mind-blowing groups I couldn’t get enough of was Led Zeppelin.  Now, even though this may date me, I listened to these rock gods on vinyl – Glorious, crackly vinyl.  I wore out my albums listening to them over and over.

When I got towards the end of high school, people starting recording music on cassettes.  Now you could take your music with you to play in your car, in other people’s houses on their stereo systems, or even in your Sony Walkman.  We were amazed that music could travel with us.

Then, in college I actually remember the day when a fellow student brought in a shiny round disc and said it was music.  I didn’t believe him, but as he laid the disc into this gigantic box of a player – here came Led Zeppelin in crystal clear sound.  No cracks, no skips – just Jimmy Page and Robert Plant bringing the rock.

After college, music continued to evolve and this thing called the iPod came along and now I could get music digitally.  Not only that, but I could add the other 5,000+ songs from my CD, cassette and vinyl collections all on one player AND take it with me!

So, what does Led Zeppelin and modes of music have to do with generations?  It’s simple . . . even though I have listened to Led Zeppelin on albums, cassettes, CDs and an iPod . . . the music remained the same.

Just as the four generations in our current workplaces are from different eras, the value and quality of their skills, knowledge and work remain the same.  Our modes may be different with technology or flextime or other cultural issues, but in the end the generations are always working to the same goal of great work and a great company,

So, quit trying to tear generations apart.  Let’s focus on the strengths that every generation brings to work every day!

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