During my travels around client sites, I’ve become aware of the complicated mix of generations that operate within the reseller’s customer base. You may not have given it much thought, but for the first time in history, there are five generations working side by side. The Traditional generation (born pre-1945), Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1980), Generation Y (1981-1995), and the Millennials (born after 1995).
Historically, the workplace consisted of two groups: the old-timers- the knowledgeable traditionalists who were viewed by the next generation as stuck in the past; and the fresh-faced youngsters who were looking to learn quickly and drive changes but were viewed by the traditionalists as ‘wet behind the ears’ and impulsive.
The youngsters added passion and the traditionalist a wealth of knowledge, which made for a balance in business planning and results.
The Generation Gap: Mindset
The new mix of workforce adds a unique challenge for resellers looking for maximum buy-in and engagement with their customers. For a successful project, they now need to be aware of the how these different generations work together.
If we summarise the extreme of the groups in the generation sprawl, we generally find:
- Dislike micro-management
- Prefer traditional team working, co-operation and buy-in
- May find Generation Y & the Millennials offensive in their working practices
- Have all the knowledge, but do not know how/ are not willing to share
- Have an attitude of "I come to work in the office and leave my work in the office when I go home"
- Crave specific detailed instruction
- Prefer to work solo as an isolationist
- Feel “dissed” when Elders fail to respect them
- Need the knowledge, but don’t know how to ask
- “I work from anywhere, am always online and expect instant responses”
These two very different groups cause a massive headache for managers trying to lead efficient, unified teams, as often there is a failure to understand and communicate with each other (and also a problem for the resellers trying to sell to them!).
Lost in Translation
The problem is exacerbated when these groups are forced to work together and collaborate. Traditionalists see the value in travelling for a face-to-face meeting, whereas Millennials don't! They see the value of virtual meetings and video conferencing. Traditionalists will always pick up a phone or email to discuss matters; whereas Millennials prefer to get on Social and crowd source the information. Both of these methods are right, when applied appropriately.
We Don't Speak
So let’s apply the following challenge often found in projects with multiple generations working within them:
Traditionalist: “I need some important information. No problem, I will just email or call the expert to gain the information I require”
…but who is the expert?
Millennial: “I don’t need to know any experts, if I can’t ‘google’ the information, I will simply post a request online and let the experts come to me!”
…but what if the expert is a traditionalist?
In business, communication issues between the oldest and the youngest generation is a very common problem. Often, neither group want to speak to each other as they find it hard work. They certainly don’t want to ask each other for help! This leads to knowledge silos and gaps. However, the right technology can help to close this gap, without the different generations having to change their working practices too much.
Closing the communication gap with a Digital Workspace solution
Underpinning any drive to adopt a Digital Workspace requires these generations to engage with each other and find a way to communicate. Here are just a few ideas:
Social Media in Business: A few years ago, the IT administrators were cursing the introduction of Instant Messaging solutions into the workplace, and management were forecasting that it would end all productivity. Well quite the opposite happened, productivity increased as users were able to enhance their communication and collaboration.
Similarly, in today’s environment, the three younger generations of the workforce, (Generations X, Y and Millennials), are already familiar with using social media in one way or another. Most are also using it in their business lives, (whether approved or not!) So why not encourage businesses to embrace these methods of communicating in a safe, secure, supported way? Most social media solutions include email contribution, (e.g. Microsoft Yammer), whereby anything posted in Yammer gets emailed to subscribers. Baby Boomers and traditionalists can then reply from within the platform with their email, which generally suits their comfort zone best; whilst the younger generations have the flexibility to reply in a social media format, still from within the platform. The solution helps close the gap and gives everyone a way to communicate effectively. Hopefully, over time, the traditionalists will even start trying out social and convert completely!
Collaboration Tools: The potential value of a business file sharing platform, so that items are not emailed around, or stored locally, is well known. As new challenges arise with regulations and legislation, e.g. GDPR, centralisation and categorisation of data becomes extremely important.
Another great tool closing the generation gap is Microsoft OneDrive for Business. This enables a centralised location for file services, but also the ability for the generations to collaborate. OneDrive can be accessed from any location on any device- something Millennials love; however, it is also accessible from a standard explorer window- something the Traditionalists will be more familiar with. The added bonus- OneDrive supports real-time collaboration, enabling all the generations to easily collaborate where ever and whenever they like.
These are just some ways that Marathon can help resellers address the various generations and help their customers achieve greater business efficiency, through collaboration. For me, (I’m not saying which generation I belong to!), I find myself floating between all methods and use the easiest one given the situation and this is where modern IT systems are now getting it right!
If you have a customer you’re talking to, about any of this, then please feel free to communicate with us in your favourite format!!