By Teresa Hundt
Hi all! I thought I would give Roy a break from writing newsletters, and kick off our next big series on a topic that is affecting every company, regardless of industry: cross-generational communication.
Without giving up my exact age, I fall into the micro-generation known as Xennials. I was born right in the transition from Gen X to Millennials, and like many people my age, share traits with both.
I was in high school and college as the internet and cell phones were really taking off, giving me the technological advantage of many millennials. However, my formative years were spent without these advancements. I spent my childhood running around my grandparents’ farm in rural North Texas, just south of Oklahoma, without a technological care in the world.
I think this gives me an interesting perspective on some of the problems the corrugated industry faces when it comes to attracting, developing, and managing younger talent.
One of the most common things I hear from long-time corrugated guys is, “These young guys just do not want to work!” And on the other end, I get younger candidates and managers that tell me that the older guys are too inflexible, or that they do not listen to new ideas, saying, “We’ve always done it this way.”
Every generation says these things – both about the next generation and about the previous ones. All the problems in the world are because the older generation screwed things up or the younger generation is just lazy.
But every generation is different. They grow up in different climates and learn different levels of technological sophistication. Each generation is raised by parents that do things differently than their parents. (How many times have we all heard “I’ll never do X, Y, or Z with MY kids!”?) Most importantly, they communicate differently, because they have different priorities.
The primary three generations we see in the workforce today are Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials (with little micro-generations like mine sprinkled in between.)
Why has each generation grown the way they have? And how do you communicate with them?
Baby Boomers were born into a world that had just come through World War 2. Because the war effort pulled the country out of the Great Depression, Boomers were promised the American Dream. They were raised on the idea that they could have everything they wanted in life, as long as they were willing to work for it. They came of age in time to be drafted and shipped off to wars in Korea and Vietnam. Most did not want to go, but did what authorities told them to do. They fought for (and against) Civil Rights at home. They created, and crashed, a great economy.
Boomers are going to have a different outlook and communicate differently, than…
Gen Xers grew up in the age of WaterGate, when companies across the country were downsizing. They saw their President and politicians lie, and their parents get laid off. They came of age during the Cold War, which impacted how they view the US in the context of an ever shrinking world. This generation saw the physical toll that working to achieve the American Dream took on their parents. They saw their parents suffer PTSD as a result of faraway wars. On top of all of this, many experts believe that Gen X will be the first generation that largely does not do better financially than their parents.
Gen Xers are going to have a different outlook and communicate differently than…
Millennials have grown up with technology and fast paced, simple solutions to most of history’s biggest day to day problems. They were handed participation trophies and were largely protected by their parents against the evils that existed in the world. They had schedules for every minute of their childhoods, rather than being left to roam free throughout the neighborhood all summer. They grew up in a time of economic expansion, and came of age just in time for events like 9/11, the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the eventual collapse of the housing market and Recession in 2008. Millennials largely think they can be the next Great Generation in an ever-changing world.
Each of these generations brings an entirely new mindset and can be an incredible asset to any company. As a result, the most effective facilities and companies are incredibly age-diverse.
A company that is built for the long haul is going to have people of all ages and backgrounds working towards a common goal. Companies that have too much of one age range are going to be doing themselves an incredible disservice. They are going to lose out on fresh ideas and the passion of youth, or they are going to lose out on the years of experience amassed by past generations.
On top of all of this, the vast majority of Baby Boomers are approaching retirement age, and as a result, it is imperative that trade/industry knowledge be passed down, or these industries will face even bigger challenges in the future.
So, we are going to spend the next few editions of this newsletter talking about each of these generations. Their reputations, the world events that shaped their lives and outlooks, and how to best communicate if you find yourself on the outside.
To quote our Baby Boomer Company Leader, “Buckle Up.”