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The Father Daughter Team

Getting the Most from an Age-diverse Workforce

New book offers strategies and tips tailored to
five generations of executives, managers, and employees.

Did you know that Baby Boomers over 50 crave developmental support from supervisors, but don't get as much as their younger peers? Or, that Gen Xers are consistently voted the best managers? Did you know that Generation Y employees are less apt to job hop than Gen Xers -- particularly when they view coworkers as friends? These are a few of the findings in a new book by generational workplace diversity experts Meagan and Larry Johnson, called Generations, Inc.: From Boomers to Linksters -- Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work (Amacom, 2010). Gen X daughter Meagan Johnson and her father, Larry Johnson, a Baby Boomer, present original ideas and innovative management strategies for getting the most out of five distinct generations of workers. Never before have five generations worked side by side, ranging in age from teenagers to seniors in their 80s and 90s. They are:

The Traditional Generation -- Born pre-1945; 8% of workforce

Baby Boomers -- Born 1946-1964; 30% of workforce

Generation X -- Born 1965-1980; 17% of workforce

Generation Y -- 1981-1995; 25% of workforce

The Linkster Generation -- Born after 1995; 18% of workforce

The Johnsons show how each of these generations has been influenced by the major historical events, social trends and cultural phenomena of their time, shaping their ideas about company loyalty, work ethic and the definition of a job well done. Each generation has widely differing sets of expectations and perceptions about what the working environment will provide, how they should behave as employees, how managers will manage them and how they will manage others. Understanding these generational characteristics gives managers an edge in everything from interviewing new hires and designing work stations and schedules, to planning meeting agendas and projects and assembling efficient teams.

New Trend: Baby Boomers Pushing Back Retirement

  • In an AARP survey, 27% of workers age 45 and up said the economic slowdown had prompted them to postpone plans to retire.
  • 76% of Boomers intend to keep working and earning in retirement.

The book is punctuated throughout with useful and entertaining father-daughter, point-counterpoint, as well as insights and opinions from employees spanning all five working generations. Weaving in dozens of study findings and statistics that shed light on generational workplace trends and working styles, the Johnsons also include mini-profiles of U.S. companies that are excelling at multigenerational sensitivity, management, and motivation. Readers discover:

  • Which generations work best in teams and which ones thrive when left alone
  • How to tailor feedback and coaching that is appropriate for different age groups
  • How to develop a one-size-fits-all retention strategy for a multigenerational workplace
  • Classic miscommunication traps between generations and how to navigate around them
  • The challenges of managing up: what Gen X and Gen Y managers need to know about their Boomer and Traditional employees
  • Tips for tapping into generational characteristics and models for customizing a management strategy for any situation

As the average lifespan continues to rise and retirement dates are increasingly postponed, age differences have become one of the most striking aspects of diversity in the 21st century. Smart leaders will benefit from knowing each generation's characteristic expectations, behaviors and mindsets about everything from company loyalty and respect for authority, rules and seniority, to the meaning of a job well done and the reward for doing it.

Larry and Meagan Johnson, a father-daughter team, comprise the Johnson Training Group (www.johnsontraininggroup.com), whose clients include several confidential government agencies, American Express, Harley-Davidson, Nordstrom, Dairy Queen and many others. They are noted public speakers on the subject of generations in the workplace, as well as on corporate culture and other management challenges. They both live in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area.

Suggestions for Discussion

  1. Give a quick rundown of the five working generations.
  2. What factors create generational characteristics?
  3. What are some of the most frequent problems and conflicts that arise between generations of workers?
  4. Baby Boomers make up the biggest generation of employees. What are the defining characteristics of this group of employees?
  5. What do managers need to know and do about their Boomers-especially those who are nearing retirement age?
  6. How do Generation Xers differ significantly from Boomer employees?
  7. How do you keep Xers productive and happy-especially with their 30% turnover rate?
  8. Generation Y has been called the "Entitled Generation." Does this mean they are slackers on the job?
  9. What advice do you have for a Gen X or Gen Y manager who has to supervise older employees?
  10. Give some examples of companies that are doing a great job with intergenerational management policies.
  11. What are common misconceptions people have about Traditionals?
  12. How does a manager deal with an old timer who has become something of a figurehead-someone who comes to work three hours a day to open mail or to 'get out of the house'?
  13. Even though the oldest Linksters are still teenagers living at home, can you give some predictions about this future generation of employees?
  14. What are the benefits of creating work teams comprising several different generations?
  15. What is the Mode Management Model® and how can it be applied to a multigenerational workplace?

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