For The Boomers
For the first time in American History – we have four generations in the work force working simultaneously. Each one communicates and processes information differently. In family businesses, this can create a significant degree of stress, especially when it comes to planning out the future of your company.
Those of us who work Legacy Planning spend plenty of time talking about the dollars and cents of it all, but what we don’t talk about (enough) is, well… how to talk to others about it. With the generation gap playing an increasingly larger role in businesses all over the world, it’s important to begin to learn how to talk and manage generations, particularly when it comes to legacy planning.
We understand there are two sides of the coin to this conversation – younger generations and older ones. Thus, we need to focus on both. This week, we’ll zero in on the older generation’s perspective and discuss some of the tactics and expectations they should carry with them when speaking with young professionals (Generation X & Y and Millennials).
Communicate values – Contrary to popular belief, younger generations aren’t anymore shallow than previous generations are. In fact, they’re some of the most values-driven members of our society. They crave meaning in their work, just like you do. It’s not enough to explain the what and how of a young professional’s work. You must show them the why by communicating the meaning behind it. You’ll be surprised at just how responsive they’ll be.
Work isn’t everything – The best and worst thing about younger generations is that they don’t value hard work the way Boomers do. They value smart work. They multi-task better, identify and prioritize better and are able to get a lot more done a lot quicker. It’s not because they’re smarter – it’s just how they were raised. The internet, cell phones, social media – even when it comes to having fun – there’s always a lot to get done in a young professional’s life.
While these qualities make them efficient, energetic and insightful, it also has led to dips in the quality of what they produce. Young professionals see the means of getting work done ‘good’ instead of ‘perfect’ as a trade off for balancing a family and spending time with their kids. Our generation spent years divorcing each other and fighting in the household. This generation refuses to succumb to that. Thus the time it would take to be focused on the details of work are instead reallocated to their family life. Maybe not the best for business, but it’s the best for them.
The last piece to remember is that with the kind of technology we have at our fingertips, we can change how work is done. You can accommodate your younger employees by allowing them to work remotely. Keeping strict office hours on some days while allowing to work home on others can be a huge boon to a younger professional whose focus lies more on home life than yours. Young professionals thrive on trust. Give a little, you’ll get a lot in return.
Your job is to help them achieve that balance they crave so much. Encourage vacations. Allow them to leave early. Let them spend time with their kids. However, be sure to inspect their work carefully and make sure that what’s being done is – in fact – getting done the right way. Help them find balance.
Don’t be defensive if you’re being misinterpreted – If you take nothing else away from this post remember this: younger generations have been raised with more methods of communication than any previous generation. They’re able to communicate on multiple fronts and as such – don’t have a lot of time to be wasting on ambiguity. You need to be clear and concise when communicating with them. Don’t leave things to assumptions. Communicate as clearly and directly as possible. While younger generations have a reputation for being ‘soft’, they’re really not. They like direct, frank and honest communication.
Try to learn about each other’s perspectives – Younger generations work hard and play hard. They’re able to get a lot done in a very short period of time and value work-life balance. Older generations appreciate nuance. They work hard and play when it suits their work schedule. They’re detail oriented and career-focused. There’s nothing wrong with either approach. Sharing those perspectives is important as there’s much to be learned from your experience and their exuberance and passion. You won’t agree on everything and that’s OK – but having a basis for understanding makes bridging gaps a significantly easier process.
Just because your younger employee doesn’t like showing up to work until 10am doesn’t mean they don’t care or can’t do a good job. Just because they spend less time working and more time playing doesn’t mean things aren’t getting done. Just because they don’t do things perfectly doesn’t mean they are shut off to learning how. Step away from the conclusions and look for ways as to help compliment their weaknesses, rather than just complaining about them.
Define a goal – If you’re working with younger family members, be sure to define the future together. Ask questions like: What will our business look like? Who will be running what? What about our values could be overhauled or reevaluated? How will a transition work? Will I leave altogether or stay on in some capacity? Whatever it is, sit down and talk. Plan and map out a future – together. With the younger generation – collaboration is everything. Even when they’re not the ones with the final say, they like to be in the loop. Keep them present and make decisions together about the future. The inclusion and trust will go a long way towards forging a positive relationship.
For Young Professionals
In family businesses, communication across generations is an essential tool – especially when discussing legacy planning and succession. While we’ve discussed the dollars and cents/ins and outs of legacy planning in the past, legacy planning pros tend to make the mistake of glossing over the basic communication skills that need to be in place to effectively address succession planning.
As such, we felt it was time to address those issues before engaging in lofty conversations loaded with detail. Last time, we talked a little bit about how boomers and members of older generations in the workforce can communicate and manage their relationships with younger generations (X, Y and Millennials). This week, we’re going to flip that on it’s head and discuss some of the things that young professionals can do to improve their relationships with older coworkers.
You’re inexperienced. That can be an advantage – Want to know how to win the respect of a boomer? Respect their experience and ask to be mentored. It allows them to get past your age and view you in a more reverential light. Finding someone who can give you that inside scoop – the person who can add context to a situation and identify issues before they become pressing can be indispensable. And most importantly – everyone wants a role to play. Respecting and taking advantage of (in a good way) an older co-worker’s experience can pay huge dividends.
Face time means a lot – I know it’s easy to work from home and there’s so much you can do while you’re on the go, but you know what? Sometimes sitting down in the office for lunch with a member of an older generation is a good thing. Asking people for advice, chatting up co-workers, learning from watching – these are all important to your ongoing development. The old saying goes – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that matters and that doesn’t just apply to working your way up the ladder, but it also applies to how you work with people. How are you going to know what buttons to push on an employee if you aren’t there to get to know them? How are you going to know where you fit if you’re not immersed in your office culture? Being present means a lot, especially to boomers. Make the effort to be in the office on time, when asked.
Patience… literally – To the boomer or member of a past generation, quality of work is always favored over the quantity. They don’t move as fast as you, they don’t get as much done as quickly as you and you know what? That’s OK. In fact, there’s a lot to learn about precision and doing good by doing a good job. Too often the younger generation moves too fast for it’s own good. Details – important details – are missed, underappreciated and glossed over. Not only do they add flavor to life, they tell people that you’re willing to go the extra mile to get something done right. In a world where we constantly crave sincerity in our interactions, taking the time to go the extra mile can go a long way to telling boomers where you stand.
Always, always avoid assumptions – Don’t assume an older coworker doesn’t understand something just because they’re older. Don’t assume the opposite, either. Always keep the lines of communications open and always ask them questions if you’re unsure. Ambiguity and assumptions can lead to major communications breakdowns where simple, minor hiccups become big problems in a hurry. Never make assumptions.
Get results – It’s great that you have a college degree. It’s awesome that you’ve got a Master’s Degree. But you know what? It doesn’t mean much to anyone if you can’t get the job done. In the professional world, results are what matter, not credentials. If you can get the job done, you could have been raised by wolves for all they care. Stay focused, stay on task and get the job done. Do that, and boomers will respect you.