Am I Too Old? Are They Too Young?

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon

new report came across my desk today, published by the IBM Center for the Business of Government. While nominally focused on government the report really focuses on the workforce in general, independent of organizational affiliation. The report gives concrete examples of why Baldrige asks how your approach to workforce Multi-generational workforce engagement differs for different workforce groups or segments. In this case, IBM deals with one particular aspect of differentiation: the multi-generational workforce. While much has been written on the topic, this concise report brings many aspects into focus.

We are in a unique period in American workforce history, having four generations of workers sharing the workplace. When one realizes, among other things, the changes in technology and economic climates over these four generations, it is no wonder that the four groups have very different expectations and approaches to accomplishing work. And in this regard we are pretty capable of being stereotyped based on whether we are a Traditionalist, a Boomer, a Gen Xer, or a Millennial. I am a Boomer (and proud of it!). So I like my communications to occur through personal interaction (although e-mail is OK, because I am tech-capable, if not tech-adept), I am competitive, and I want to be led to information and thirst for knowledge. When it comes to rewarding me, I want personal attention and recognition (and team recognition is perfect). Contrast that with millennials who want to communicate by text messages and IM’s, believe work should be judged just by results not hours (Boomers prided ourselves on our long work hours), and want to learn through connectivity, online, in their time and their place. And rewards should involve immediate recognition (at the speed of electrons). I could contrast all of these characteristics for Traditionalists also, but I don’t have to, because they never read blogs. OK, maybe I exaggerate a little!

So what’s a leader or manager to do? Recognize differences and try to be as supportive of each generation as possible. And face the challenge of having all generations work collaboratively. Now how do I conduct that four-generational meeting that suits my needs as a Boomer manager?

I don’t have all the answers, but I sure know the questions to ask if I look at the Workforce Focus category of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. I know that Workforce Engagement (Item 5.2) is critical. I know that it involves performance management, workforce development and career progression. I also know that I need to determine the elements of engagement for each workforce group or segment. I know because the Criteria ask me about it!

I also know that a good leader needs to be sympathetic to very different styles, needs, and desires. Have you learned that lesson?


About Barbara Fischer

NIST Baldrige
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5 Responses to Am I Too Old? Are They Too Young?

  1. Sandra Myrand says:

    In regard to managing a variety of age-different people within one work force, at my last employer, we used a book entitled Love ‘Em or_Lose ‘Em, which identified the diffenet generations of workers in the workforce and how to identify, understand, motivate, and encourage cooperation among the work force groups. While the book approaches the issue with a light-heart, concise view, the information is very helpful and informative. I highly recommend it for managers at all levels.

  2. Jack Priggen says:

    nice blog… like most things Baldrige, this sounds hard (my way of saying fun!!)… as a fellow boomer (1951) i have a lot to learn on this topic as i believe many of us boomers want the other generational folks to adapt and communicate our way… i agree that this has become an increasingly challenging part of leading today’s diverse workforce… the Category 1 requirements for senior leaders to have effective two-way communication with all segments of the workforce has been a great learning experience that has led to many improvements in our orgaization’s efforts to engage our workforce…

  3. Thanks for the pointer to the Business of Government report. Excellent resource, and your blog postings continue to be spot-on. Thank you.

  4. Bob Bowles says:

    Another great read on this very important strategic topic is “The 2020 Workplace” by Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd. I am a Cusper between the Traditionist and the Boomer generations so I bought the hardback copy. If you are a Millennial, you will probably read it on your phone.

  5. muska supra says:

    Excellent post. It makes me realize the energy of words and pictures. I learn a lot, thank you! Wish you make a further progress in the future.

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