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Generations in the Workplace

Minding the Gap is a corporate training workshop on navigating generational differences developed by RDR Group.

One of the biggest diversity issues facing corporations today is the lack of mutual understanding, appreciation, and collaboration between the four different generations that make up the workplace.

Consequently, the unique talents and perspectives of each cohort group are rarely utilized. Minding the Gap is designed to give leaders and employees the skills they need to comfortably relate to others who grew up in a different time in history. This can, in turn, help an organization combine the energy and ingenuity of younger generations with the wisdom and experience of older generations.

An age inclusive culture can improve every area of corporate life: recruitment, retention, strategic thinking, problem solving, product development, marketing, and customer service.

The Minding the Gap workshop challenges individual leaders and employees to take personal responsibility to bridge the generation gap at work. This program will teach participants how to better understand and appreciate people from other age groups and to adjust their own style of relating and communicating to connect more successfully with members of all four generations.

Course Overview

Different History and Social Conditioning

If we are going to value individuals of different generations, we must learn something about the different historical events and cultural forces that shaped each generation, as well as the resulting norms, values, priorities, and perspectives that are unique to each cohort group.

Traditionalists (born before 1946)

  • Major life-shaping event: World War II
  • Technological era: radio
  • Defining group norm: loyalty
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)

  • Major life-shaping event: Economic prosperity
  • Technological era: television
  • Defining group norm: ambition
Generation X (born 1965-1979)

  • Major life-shaping event: economic recession
  • Technological era: personal computer
  • Defining group norm: self-reliance
Millennials (born 1980-1999)

  • Major life-shaping event: globalization
  • Technological era: internet
  • Defining group norm: tolerance

Different Strengths

Due to the unique cultural surroundings and group norms that each of grew up with, we all tend to have certain characteristics hard-wired into us depending on our generation. These characteristics can be strengths when balanced by the prevailing traits of other generations.

  • Traditionalists–dependable, sacrificial, dutiful, structured, frugal
  • Boomers–driven, passionate, optimistic, collaborative, relational
  • Gen X–resourceful, adaptable, candid, entrepreneurial, confident
  • Millennials–innovative, dedicated, global, inclusive, tech savvy

Different Stereotypes

When generational traits are not balanced by other generations–and when they are taken to extremes–they can have a negative effect, just like various personality types. Consequently, each generation gets stereotyped. It is important for us, whichever generation we’re a part of, to be aware of how our tendencies can create negative stereotypes.

  • Traditionalists–old-fashioned, rigid, authoritarian, conservative, slow-moving
  • Boomers–overachievers, workaholics, materialistic, sensitive, self-absorbed
  • Gen X–cynical, loners, non-conformists, disrespectful, blunt
  • Millennials–immature, entitled, overly confident, migratory, impatient

Different Needs

It is critical for organizations to understand and accommodate the different needs of each generation if they expect to have success recruiting and retaining talent from all cohort groups. Here are some specific concerns that must be addressed:

  • Traditionalists–respect, consistency, commitment, straightforward feedback
  • Boomers–perks, affirmation, challenge, tactful feedback
  • Gen X–freedom, flexibility, change, frequent feedback
  • Millennials–empowerment, development, technology, instantaneous feedback

Generations and Corporate Practices

Participants are asked to work in generationally mixed breakout groups to discuss how the following corporate practices need to be tailored to appeal to each generation:

  • Recruiting efforts
  • Career planning
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Recognition and rewards
  • Retention strategies
  • Marketing
  • Customer service