No Need for Gen X, Millennial Workplace Battle
When it comes to Gen X and Millennial turf wars in the workplace, it's time to drop the snap judgments and start learning from each other.
By 2020, Millennials will make up 40% of the total working population. That's 86 million people, said Jamie Gutfreund, chief marketing officer for Noise, a Los Angeles-area agency focused on generational trends and engaging Millennials.
“Older generations have always complained about younger ones. Every generation has a moment where they are misunderstood,” said Gutfreund, a Gen Xer herself. “When we were young we were considered slackers, lazy and unfocused. Now Gen X is diligent, focused and practical.”
Understanding those cultural differences is key to fostering work environments where all generations are engaged.
Members of Gen X, the latchkey generation, essentially raised themselves, and felt they had to fight to be heard, to earn their status in life and the workplace.
As a result of being so independent, Gen X values structure, status and linear progression. Gutfreund said it's no wonder Gen X has been the darling of human resources.
Millennials were raised to feel special and taught to believe that their opinions were important. Rather than categorizing Millennials as entitled, unfocused and impatient, Gutfreund said to recognize they are collaborative, efficient, nimble and innovative.
Are these characteristics any employer can afford to dismiss? It's about being forward thinking, not backward dreaming.
“They may be speaking a different language but there's a great opportunity to share experience and creativity between the generations,” Gutfreund said.
It's about leveraging the strengths of each generation. Gen X ‘s expertise can be used to help provide access to a broader base of support to Millennials, and Gen X can benefit from Millennials’ innovation, tech savviness and creative thought process.
“Forget the generational challenge. It's a matter of mutual respect and understanding. Recognizing the most effective way to give and receive criticism is usually something that is not taught or easily learned,” Gutfreund said. “Millennials today, it's not about mutiny, but efficiency. This crazy, fast-paced world requires innovation, being nimble and getting things done now. That is simply how they live and it's partially a reflection of the reality they’ve grown up in.”
Brass Media has been successfully navigating a multigenerational workforce since then 21-year-old Bryan Sims and his father, Steve Sims, decided to help young adults understand money back in 2003.
Some 11 years later, the mission remains the same, but the media in which it's delivered has changed to reflect the shift in how young adults seek and consume.
With a staff of 22 hard-working people from different generations, culture fit matters most, said Fatemeh Fakhraie, social media and marketing specialist for brass in Corvallis, Ore.
Since brass’ culture has been geared more toward collaboration rather than a rigid hierarchy, weekly check-in meetings that run anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour have been an effective way to keep everyone on the same page and on track. With the frequent communication, expectations are set out and discussed before any problems arise.
“A big misconception for most companies is that you’ve got young people at the bottom of the totem pole and older people at the top,” Fakhraie said. “That doesn't mirror the reality at brass: Everyone's making decisions at all levels and leadership positions aren't just for boomers.”
The office layout offers a mix of shared workspaces and private offices, which has made it easier to get feedback and hone ideas into something workable.
“I think the casual atmosphere and flexible schedule is really important to everyone,” Fakhraie said. “We look for people who are excited about our mission and interested in furthering it using whatever special skills they have. Ensuring this is a place people love to work has been a priority. So things like working from home from time to time, making sure you can be there for family issues you need to take care of and no strict Internet policy mean a lot to us.”
As the workplace continues to evolve, attracting the best talent has less to do with generational differences and more with basic human interests.
According to Gutfreund, many of the Millennial expectations such as flexibility, a desire to do meaningful work, and professional and personal development growth opportunities will universally shift how people view their careers and select potential employers.
Talent pool demographics certainly haven't mattered as much as attitude at Kansas City, Mo.-based Mazuma Credit Union.
“The thing we’re interested in is whether or not folks are a fit for the culture, regardless if they’re 18 or 118,” said Matt Monge, chief culture and marketing manager at the $488 million credit union. “Our core values are lived out in different ways by different people; but people can be fun and positive, regardless of their age or any other demographic, for that matter. People can be collaborative and team-oriented, regardless of their age. People can be into learning and growth, regardless of their age. And people can be creative and innovative, regardless of their age.”
A “radtastic” credit union? Helping members bank happy? Mazuma has been making it happen for years and a recent rebrand earlier this year helped drive the difference home.
In terms of recruiting, retention and employee engagement, everything has been aligned with the credit union's culture and brand, so it's all uniquely Mazuma.
“At the end of the day, we want to be really good at banking, but we also want people to smile every once in a while. We want to make Kansas City a better and happier place to live, work and bank. We know we’re not for everyone, and we’re fine with that,” Monge said.
The credit union doesn't have employees but Mazumans, who are focused on constantly improving. Each Mazuman's calling card features him or her striking three fun poses, as well as including name and contact information. Current openings start off answering Who Are We? with “We’re a hot mess of awesomeness that all happen to work in the same building doing the same thing. Think of us as the foam on your latte.”
Regardless of title, whether accountant, universal agent or CFO, Mazuma has set the clear expectation of being on the hunt for “someone with a great attitude and creative streak, who plays nicely with others,” Monge said.
“Our recruiting brochures are different than any I’ve seen. Our Mazumafy blog is different than any other financial institution blog I’ve seen. It's different because it's all tied to our unique culture and brand. We’re trying to be authentically ‘us,’” Monge said. “We actually hope we do turn some people off. For us, recruiting isn't about getting a lot of applicants; it's about getting the right ones. We either want people to be drawn to our job ads or to say to themselves, ‘That's clearly not for me.’”