I don’t feel old. Though I admit there are aspects of our popular culture that I find bewildering (e.g. $5 lattés with frilly foam designs, that thing with the pants hanging off the butts, and every texting abbreviation besides “LOL” … not sure why, but that one always makes me laugh).
I also don’t feel obsolete. This could be because I’m suffering from an acute lack of information. But a more optimistic view of my self-proclaimed relevance could be the role I’m playing in today’s labor force. Allow me to elaborate …
For the first time in our nation’s history, four generations of workers are pursuing careers in our labor force. There are the Traditionalists, born 1922 to 1945, who epitomize the “cradle to grave” employment philosophy and consider themselves “The Greatest Generation.” Then, on the heels of World War II, came the Baby Boomers, born 1946 to 1964. Boomers ushered women and minorities, en masse, into the workforce. Born between 1965 and 1980, we have Generation X (or Gen X’ers). This segment of the labor force made job hopping a winning strategy for advancing one’s career. And that brings us to Generation Y or Millennials as they are often called. Born between 1981 and 1990, these young laborers strive to maintain a work/life balance that workaholic Boomers dare not fathom.
Each generation brings a unique set of attributes to the workplace that, properly interwoven, can create a focused, exuberant, high performing work group. Today’s leaders face the challenge of weaving this multi-generational tapestry. You see, it’s all about keeping a diverse set of folks engaged. Engagement equals performance, and performance equals results.
I remember the first time I saw a young, talented manager sitting in a meeting just texting away on her Blackberry. I recall an almost overwhelming temptation to snatch the device away and growl “Pay attention!” It’s been awhile since that meeting (hence the Blackberry reference) and I’ve learned a lot. One of the biggest lessons I keep with me is this … That young Gen X’er was, in all probability, connecting with her team to solve a problem we had just identified during the meeting. Meanwhile, I was sitting there simultaneously being self-righteous and out-performed.
So, what’s my role in today’s labor force? To tell stories like this one. To help us embrace our next diversity.
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