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Diversity at work can teach all ages

February 23, 2014

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Working in different environments surrounded by different people can be challenging, but also an educational experience.

The world is composed of diverse people, and I am not referring to personalities. In this case, I focus on the different generations, the famous age gaps.

Working at the Angelo State University Small Business Development Center, we work with clients from all generations. Interacting with all in a pleasant manner can be overwhelming at times. It is like flipping on and off different switches. But, the ability to do so will provide multiple benefits. Generational flexibility with clients and employees can become the key to a successful business.

So, let’s understand generational trends. The predominant generations in the work environment are Millennials (Born between 1980-2000), Gen X (1965-1979), and baby boomers (1946-1964).

If we base the success of your business in understanding the different generations of the staff you manage, this topic will become of utmost importance. The reality is that much of the success of your business depends on your workforce.

A new study from Y, formerly Ernst & Young, includes insight from more than 1,200 professionals across all three generations and industries. It explains the strengths and weaknesses of workers from these different generations based on the perceptions of their peers.

In general, the study found Millennials are tech-savvy but not great team players. Gen X-ers are entrepreneurial-thinking, but rank low on executive presence. And last, but not least, baby boomers are team players and loyal, but don’t adapt so well.

Each generation has unique strengths, but their strengths may also be perceived as weaknesses by the other age groups. Even though these are generalities, each of you might identify with a certain characteristic in your generation, therefore, you will tend to sympathize and manage employees accordingly. But, as management and workforce shifts to younger generations, it is important to focus on enhancing skill sets, addressing the challenges of managing multiple generations, and retaining employees by understanding which workplace perks they may value most.

Today’s world is one of “coopetition” (cooperative competition), so finding and reminding your team of its common goals will help overcome generational differences and build tighter bonds.

To read more of the article, “Generations in the Workplace,” visit economist.com.

 

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    Adriana Balcorta-Havins

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sbdc@angelo.edu