Infusing the Generation Gap

By: A Millennial

In the classroom, we are taught that a company’s most important goal is to maximize shareholder wealth. As we enter the real-world and commence our careers, we then understand that a company is driven by people (or human capital). A significant challenge that companies are now facing is adapting to the change in generations. With older generations assuming senior positions or exiting the workforce, there is now an influx of younger entrants. In addition to the many day-day issues a company faces, it must now find solutions to two enduring problems:

  1. How to attract and retain Millennials (people with birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s).
  2. How to infuse different generations and ignite cohesiveness.

In my opinion, attracting and retaining Millennials can be achieved by the company itself. However, infusing generational gaps within a company can only be done by the employees themselves. Only by having employees discover the benefits of generational differences can a company fully utilize the diversity that a workplace offers.

Here are two broad solutions for each of the two problems outlined above:

1. How to attract and retain Millennials:

  • Use Social Media: companies can use a plethora of platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. to advertise (for free) what it would be like to work for them. The more interactive, personal, and informal companies become in communicating with Millennials the easier it will be to attract them. Use YouTube to upload “Day in the Life” videos of a company’s CEO or fresh graduate who just joined. Use LinkedIn to write articles that describe, in a simplified manner, what the company does and is planning to do. Use Facebook to interact with people and show them the company cares about its stakeholders. Use Snapchat to allow employees to show friends/family what their typical day looks like. Use Instagram to share pictures of what the company is doing outside of work i.e. charities, TED talks, youth programs etc. The more a company distances itself from the bland and formal style of hiring, the more likely it will attract and retain exceptional talent.
  • Encourage Creativity: Millennials, we dream big. With high aspirations and goals, a company should foster, encourage, and unleash the innovative/entrepreneurial capabilities of younger generations. Instead of shutting the door on what someone can do, leave the door open and see how far one can go. Most Millennials have side projects, businesses, and ideas outside of work they are truly passionate about. Companies should take the time and show interest in learning what these things are. By doing so, companies can then find ways to bridge greats insights into the company to challenge status-quo. Often times, challenging the status-quo can be very intimidating, especially for a new entrant. Senior executives, managers, and supervisors should reward employees for taking the time and energy to think of ways to change the company for the better i.e. adding value. In the words of Henry Ford, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”.

2. How to infuse different generations and ignite cohesiveness:

  • Accept Change: change is occurring whether you like it or not. The only way to survive is to tackle it head on. As the wave grows in size and begins approaching, a surfer does not swim in the opposite direction. A surfer swims towards the wave, finds the perfect entry point, and rides the wave in a smooth fashion. Similarly, a company ancient in its thinking will never see a smooth future. Change is difficult for anyone, but a company must understand that just as older generations have to adapt to younger generations, younger generations have to adapt to older generations. Instead of accepting one side and neglecting the other, I believe the best approach is to infuse both in a concoction of diverse experiences, ideas, and skill sets. For instance, knowing that Millennials have greater experience with technology, older generations can leverage their capabilities to automate inefficient and manual processes. On the flip side, Millennials can leverage the experience and knowledge that their older counterparts can offer and expand their thinking into realms that would otherwise be left unopened.
  • Respect Differences: the issue I see is that both the older and younger generations fear one another. Younger generations fear they will not be taken seriously. Older generations fear they will be replaced. The solution is to realize that a puzzle cannot be completed with pieces of the same structure.Differences in age, knowledge, experience, and skill set is required by any company looking to reap the benefits of a complete human capital puzzle. Millennials provide a company with current, fresh, and new insights. They bring to the table fluency with technology that can revolutionize the future of the company. Older generations are blessed to have encountered historic economic events i.e. the tech bubble in the 1990’s and geopolitical events i.e. World War II that lasted from 1939 to 1945. Knowledge of the outcomes of  such events can provide companies with the ability to mitigate the risks that could arise if history repeats itself. Finally, each generation can help the other remedy a weakness. Knowing that Millennials are very ambitious, positive, and optimistic, older generations can keep Millennials grounded, realistic, and rational. This can prevent Millennials from pursuing ideas that involve huge risks and potential losses i.e. entering a business venture without doing research or having financial backing. Conversely, Millennials can provide useful insider information for older generations on how to understand younger people. Older generations can then translate this information to better their relationships with their children.

Embracing generational changes and taking advantage of what they offer will dictate the success and viability of a company’s future. Change can be your friend or enemy. Whether it will benefit you or lead to your demise depends on the side you choose to play on; the side that accepts change or neglects it. So, which side are you on?