by Dr Paul Redmond
As a thriving, multi-demographic industry, the educational travel industry employs professionals from all four of today’s leading generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z. Each of these generations views the world from its own unique generationally-specific perspective. Generational differences can be observed not only in the classroom but also the workplace. Not only do employees from different generations communicate differently and respond to different styles of management, they write (and punctuate) differently, work differently, and have radically different views about punctuality and office protocols.
Nevertheless, despite all these differences, only eight percent of organisations have policies for building multi-generational teams.
In an increasingly diverse workplace, understanding generational preferences is essential for leaders, managers and suppliers. And there are several techniques employers can use to help them engage more effectively with their multi-generational teams.
But before they do, they have to understand the challenges faced by different cohorts, particularly when it comes to technology.
Talking about my generation
While every generation, to some extent, is now digitally proficient, the rise of digital technology has had disproportionate impact on younger people. These are the ‘digital natives’ for whom computers are not even “technology” but simply “stuff” that needs upgrading and recharging on a regular basis. For them, they struggle to conceive of a time “BC” – Before Computers.
Boomers and Generation X, on the other hand, are “digital immigrants” – people who have had to teach themselves the ‘language’ of computers. For them, telephones will remain ‘mobile,’ telephone numbers will be ‘dialled,’ and emails will be forever ‘typed’.
As digital natives, Millennials and Generation Z possess their own distinct and technologically-informed ways of learning. For them, learning is a collaborative, co-creational experience – a two-way process that involves coaching and ongoing development. Gone are the Boomer days when learning was a didactic, one-way, top-down experience. The challenge is: keeping their attention.
Attention is Power
Forget knowledge and information. In today’s world, attention is the gold standard that drives politics, global economies, arts and culture and, of course, the media. Attention is also a commodity – as humans, we only have so much of it. And as we find ourselves surrounded by ever more intriguing and distracting technology, actually paying attention is becoming harder and more elusive, particularly for Generation Z.
According to one theory, while Millennials have an attention span of 12 seconds, Generation Z – the youngest generation currently operating in the workplace – has an attention span of just 8 seconds. Apparently, that’s six seconds less than a goldfish – so don’t diss the fish.
If you are a manager of different generations, here’s three things you can do to make your workplace a more focused and generation-friendly environment:
- Talk about our generations: each of the four working generations has its own strengths, weaknesses and areas for development. Each generation has lots to learn from the other three cohorts. So why not bring your team together to talk about their generations – and what their generation can contribute to the team. Remember: every generation has its own strengths, weaknesses and areas for development. And a well-functioning team needs a diversity of generations. No one is perfect, but a team can be.
- Pay attention to attention: in today’s workplace, employees are interrupted or distracted on average once every three minutes. That means you’ve probably not got through this article without being distracted at least once by your phone, laptop or TV. After that, it can take up to 23 minutes to regain pre-distraction levels of concentration. As a manager, your role is to help your team maximise attention, both for the good of the team and the business. Talk to colleagues about what you can do to help them make the most of their concentration. This might include agreeing to have ‘no-email’ days or introducing ‘no-distraction’ rules for open plan offices.
- Reverse mentoring: one of the most powerful ways for managers to look at their business or team through the eyes of younger employees, reverse mentoring involves managers being mentored by staff (or students) younger than themselves. The mentoring can take place over an agreed period of time and typically involves several meetings in which the ‘mentor’ provides an insight into their experiences in the team. When carried out carefully and thoughtfully, reverse mentoring can provide many valuable and powerful insights, particularly for senior managers who may have limited engagement with new or junior staff. Try it: you won’t regret it.
If you’re an ALTO member, Reka has already sent you the presentation slides by e-mail on 25th Nov 2022. Please check your e-mail and contact her for further information.
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