Builders, Boomers, GenX-ers and NeXters. Many work environments now have four generations within them, something that has never occurred in modern years. If your company or business unit is one of them, I know you’ve likely got your hands full with the chaos created by the conflict and poor communications that may exist as a result of this.

It’s a hot topic in the workplace today and the thought of how to manage the issues can be staggering to a business owner or manager when he or she discovers that many people are not ready or willing to embrace the changes needed to overcome generational diversity.

This clash of cultures is less serious in organizations where leadership is described by workers as collaborative and open, rather than dictatorial and rigid.  Ask yourself these questions:  Are people in your company able to learn from their peers? Their (older or younger) manager? Do those differences get in the way of company growth, profitability or change? Do you understand what you need to know about other generations to communicate effectively and be your most productive?

If you don’t like your answers, well – you’re not alone.  It’s time to take stock of what makes each generation tick.  Here’s some key characteristics:

  • Builders (aka Veterans) – envision the 8-12 hour workday as a standard work ethic, no matter when the goal will be reached.
  • Boomers (aka Baby Boomers) – prefer team situations and often attempt to position themselves for the rewards and recognition of team success.
  • GenXers (aka Xers) – highly results-oriented; seeks ways to accomplish more in less time.  Chooses not to work any longer than it takes to meet objectives.
  • NexTers (aka Y generation or Millennials) – this youngest generation is interested in understanding how their work contributes to the overall success and business objectives of the organization.  They want to be clear about their part in the outcomes.

Ron Zemke wrote a book which contains some further insights into reducing, if not eliminating the generational frictions in the workplace.  He coined the acronym ACORN.

  • Accommodate employee differences.

– Generational differences, when properly acknowledged and managed provide creativity

  • Create workplace choices.

– Instead of sticking with outdated cultural models, create an environment where the workplace can shape and flow around serving clients and the folks who do the work.

  • Operate from a sophisticated management style

– Leaders should set goals and specific measurements that holds people accountable.  Feedback, feed-forward and reward create a positive and productive environment.

  • Respect competence and initiative

– People either exceed, meet or don’t meet expectations.  Leaders who expect more from their teams, provide the tools and support, and encourage initiative will get higher productivity, more creative thinking and effective problem solving.

  • Nourish retention

– The costs of unplanned turnover are really staggering.  Start by hiring the right people for the job . . . and your culture.  Update your company people policies and make them generational friendly.

So you’re probably thinking, ‘this is just common sense’.  Well, I have coaching clients  and prospects who are so caught up in the day-to-day business operations, that they don’t even have time to concern themselves with these issues, until they realize that their turnover is costing them 10%, 15%, or as high as 50% of their profits!  That’s usually when I get a telephone call.