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November 17, 2014

Flourish In A Post-Generational World

Katherine Baldwin

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The-Gen-Z-Effect_cover_80x125When I was growing up, we didn't have computers and mobile phones. I wrote my college essays with a pen and paper, but my teenage nephews, on the other hand, do their homework on a laptop and give me tips on how to use my iPhone.

When they eventually get jobs, they’ll probably be more technologically savvy than older workers, which many of their more established colleagues are sure to find unsettling!

The Gen Z Effect” showed me how mixing up the experience and expertise of the younger and older generations can break down the divides between those who grew up surrounded with technology and those who did not. In fact, authors Thomas Koulopoulos and Dan Keldsen say that the benefits don't stop there.

They advocate a process called ‘reverse mentoring’, which helps spread knowledge between generations in the workplace. We hear how it works in this audio clip, from our review of this book.

Listen to the full Book Insight in the Mind Tools Club ¦ Install Flash Player.

Reverse mentoring gets knowledge and experience flowing in both directions. While the goal may be to teach more senior workers about new technologies, the mentor gains a lot too, often getting the opportunity to work with and learn from people in positions of influence – people they perhaps wouldn’t normally meet in their day jobs. I can imagine that this would be a good way to break down walls and get everyone talking to each other, as well as building confidence.

The authors say that feedback should work in a similar way, too, and point to Google as an example of a company where employees get to rate and measure their managers’ performance through upward feedback surveys.

This got me thinking back to my time working as a journalist for large, international corporations. We were encouraged to offer feedback to our immediate managers, but the process didn’t go any higher up the chain than that, and the CEO seemed completely beyond our reach.

I wonder how honest we would have been, even if we had been given the chance to evaluate the performance of our big bosses. But, I guess, the more we all do it, the easier it’ll become, and I imagine that Google's employees are feeling the benefits of open, two-way conversation right across the ranks.

I also recall the annual performance review as something that most of us disliked and deemed a little pointless, especially since salary restrictions often meant that managers had no means of rewarding good work, except, perhaps, with a pat on the back.

According to Koulopoulos and Keldsen, younger employees expect much more frequent encouragement than the annual or bi-annual performance review. Gen Z employees are accustomed to instant, constant, and consistent feedback, and need to feel engaged. Think about how Facebook works – you post something, then check shortly after to see how many ‘likes’ you’ve got. Gen Z employees take this mentality into the workplace. They want regular updates on how they’re doing.

This demand for feedback is now spreading to employees of all ages – nobody wants to feel left out. That’s why companies are coming up with new ways to give and receive feedback, designing their own social commentary platforms, similar to Facebook, so that colleagues and managers can comment publicly on a job well done and encourage people to meet their targets. These channels need to be monitored, of course, but I can see how they would help companies to satisfy their employees’ demands for constant feedback and get everyone motivating each other.

These are just a few of the useful techniques that the authors offer in this book, to help readers reap the rewards of the technological advances that are blurring the lines between generations and changing the way that we interact with each other, both at home and at work. You can learn more about “The Gen Z Effect” in our premium members’ Book Insight, here.

Question: What steps can you take to break down the barriers between generations in your organization? Let us know below!

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5 comments on “Flourish In A Post-Generational World”

  1. Stop thinking you know everything and that youngsters can't teach you anything or that they don't know much due to lack of experience. Their creative thinking is still stronger and they look at old problems through young eyes.
    If you don't listen to them, treat them as if they don't yet know much or understand much, they will give you a wide berth.
    Open up the communication channels, give them gentle guidance, listen to their (sometimes warped) opinions without judgment and don't act like the fun police.

  2. Our team has gone the other way. The manager wants to only hire Millennials to get that youthful point of view. We have a wide range of ages on our team from 20s to 65. This sort of continual referrence to the Millennials is causing a gap between the two ends of the spectrum.

    1. I'm wondering how this affects the balance on your team? I value getting input from different people from different age groups, cultures, races, perspectives etc. It makes for a richer experience.

  3. First of all I would like to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question in which I'd like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I have had a hard time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out. I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Cheers!

    1. Hi Margrett, Everyone has their own personal strategies before they begin writing. My favorite one is to do 5 or 10 minutes of meditation where I concentrate on my breathing. This helps to calm my mind and following that I am able to write with more ease.

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