Tapping into multigenerational talent

Submitted by chris.troutman on October 30, 2017
Explore the science behind generational differences to strengthen your emotional intelligence and help make you a better leader—and advisor to your clients.

Tammy Erickson:
The work that I do is all based on the work of developmental psychologist, Dr. Jean Piaget. What Piaget and his colleagues learned is that kids learn different things at different times. Do any of you out there have little kids at home, like two, three, four? Anybody have that young? Well, do you ever feel like they're not listening to you, once in a while? Well, if you do, Piaget would say you're absolutely right. They are not listening to you. Because, in fact, what little kids are doing is trying to figure out how tangible objects work. So, they're trying to figure out how a toy truck works. Or, if they turn a crank and a clown jumps out of a box, how did that happen? Their mind is preoccupied with concrete tangible objects, and figuring out how those connect.

Tammy Erickson:
But, if any of you have kids at home or who are 11, let's say 11 to 15−anybody have those? Okay, watch out, because they are listening. They're listening to you and your spouse and what you talk about, big ears. They're listening to what's on the news and trying to figure out, "What's that event mean? What kind of a crazy world is this that we live in?" They're trying to figure out how they need to live their life, what's going to be important to them? How do they need to behave, in order to be successful and secure? Who should they trust? How do they feel about the people who are running the world today? How are they doing out there? All of these ideas are things that kids wrestle with between 11 and 15.

Tammy Erickson:
And I'm somewhat sad to tell you, that's about it. You've got those five years when they're very susceptible to your ideas, and it's a great time to talk with them about your values. What it also means is, whatever was happening to you when you were 11 to 15 is still influencing you today. Now, of course, we all get emotional intelligence and we learn to intellectually override some of those early feelings we have, but I will guarantee you, your knee-jerk initial reactions to many events are very heavily colored by the experiences you had when you were 11 to 15. For example, your religion−religious training would have impacted you. Your socioeconomic status, certainly. The location in which you grew up. People from different countries would have had very different experiences.

Tammy Erickson:
Your families, your parents' political views, your brothers and sisters, your friends, all of these things shaped you to be an individual. So, you are who you are, an individual. But the fascinating thing about generations, is that because people who grew up particularly in the same country, at the same time, would have seen some of the same events. There tends to be a thread. There's some kind of a commonality that people who grew up, who were 11 to 15, in roughly the same years, share in their perceptions about the world. And that's what gives this generational flavor. It's the fact that we actually shared some common experiences.

Tammy Erickson:
Now, I want to be very clear, there aren't any crisp dividing lines. But what's interesting, again, is that major events that occurred during the years these people would have been 11 to 15, have really shaped us. And what tends to cause a new generation, is that something significant happens to change the 11- to 15-year-old experience. Figure out what years you were 11 to 15, and then try to think about−what do you remember from those years? What do you remember happening in the news? What kinds of events were going on in the world around you? And maybe even more importantly, what was happening in your family? Were you experiencing a divorce? Or, were your parents laid off? Or, what was going on? And think about that advice your parents gave you?

Tammy Erickson:
What does all of this say, in terms of who you are? What you care about, what you value, and how you see the world? I think you'll get some interesting insights. I want to give you some examples, to show you what I mean. I'm going to start with the two, I guess we could say, older generations that are in the workforce today. The first I'd like to talk about, I call "traditionalists." Now, traditionalist are people who are 70 or so today, a little older. Traditionalists are people who did not fight in World War II in the U.S. That's what Tom Brokaw and others have called the Greatest Generation. These guys were babies during World War II. So, they turned 11 after the war ended.

Tammy Erickson:
Now, I want you to think for a minute, what it would have been like to live in the United States after World War II. Think of the things you would have seen. You would have seen ticker tape parades down the streets of New York celebrating war heroes returning. Generals would have been greatly admired. You would have seen factories that had been making war goods converted into making consumer goods. So, all of a sudden, there's all kinds of things available that hadn't been available for years. And you would have seen suburbs beginning to sprout up. And, all of a sudden, this idea of acquiring the house with the white picket fence and moving to the suburbs would become the great American dream.

Tammy Erickson:
Now, think about that from the perspective of an 11-year-old. I think it's pretty easy to see that, in fact, this would be a world any 11-year-old would probably be eager to join. And if I were to pick one idea that exemplifies the kinds of conversations I've had over many years with traditionalists, they center around joining, membership, belonging. These are people who were eager to become part of the world they saw. They respected the people who were running the world at the time. So, they have a natural respect for people in positions of hierarchy. And they were eager to reap the rewards that that world had to offer, to get that washing machine and perhaps that house with a white picket fence. Those are the kinds of values that this generation cared about.

Tammy Erickson:
And they're important ones because I know that many of your clients are in this generation. So, the ideas of money as a reward for membership, for having joined, having paid your dues, having worked long hours, are all very important components of how they think about their wealth today. Now, if we contrast that with the next generation, the one I call "boomers;" they had a pretty different experience when they were 11 to 15. The economy was still good. So, they weren't too worried about the whole job front side. But, of course, what was on the news was not the rebuilding of America, what was on the news were all the protests. This is a time when we were talking about protests for civil rights and women's rights and workers' rights. And, of course, the Vietnam War.

Tammy Erickson:
It was a time when the people who looked around, the 11-year-olds, would have said, "Whoa, this world, it doesn't look like the adults in charge have quite got things sorted out." And so, it was very normal for 11-year-olds at the time to think at some level, "I want to make a difference. I want to help change this for the better. The way it's going is not the best way that it could be going." And so, that sense of idealism and change that we often associate with boomers is a very natural outcome of the experiences they saw. But, the single most important thing happening to boomers when they were 11 to 15, was that there were a lot of them.

Tammy Erickson:
Boomers are fundamentally a generation that grew up with the sensation that there were more kids in the age range behind me than there are in mine, and more in mine than the one ahead. So, there are more and more and more of us coming along all the time. The schools couldn't build fast enough to have enough room for these kids. And so, most schools were forced to get temporary hots, and put them out back. Now, I want you to think again like you're 11 years old. You're 11, you show up at school, you're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and I'm your principal. I say, "Look, kid, we don't have enough chairs. You don't have a seat in the building, you're going to go to school in the hot out back. You better study hard, because there won't be very many chairs in college, either."

Tammy Erickson:
That's the basic reality that boomers had to face as young people. There weren't enough seats. And so, a very normal reaction for any boomer kid to come to, maybe not at an intellectual level, but certainly at an intuitive and behavioral level, is the sense of, "I better be good. I'm going to have to compete in order to make sure I get one of those very scarce chairs." So, boomers tend to be hard-working, driven, a little bit obsessive (Sorry, guys.), but very determined to stay ahead. If a company said, "Jump," a boomer would say, "How high?" Because they know that, if they hesitate, there're 10 other boomers in line, ready to do what the corporation has asked. For boomers, getting that chair, being selected, winning are important characteristics, important ways for looking at life.

Tammy Erickson:
Now, interestingly, for different reasons, both of these generations fit pretty well with the normal corporate practices. Both of them liked being rewarded with money; both of them liked being promoted into positions of greater prestige. Again, slightly different motivations. But the way we were structured as corporations worked reasonably well for both. Generation X grew up in a very different set of conditions. There were a number of fascinating things happening in the U.S. when these guys were 11 to 15. First of all, the economy was lousy. The economy actually has been lousy at several points in Gen X's evolution. They've really been hit hard with bad timing through no fault of their own. But the first time was when they were 11 to 15.

Tammy Erickson:
Did you know that, in the recession of 1981, was the first time the U.S. government collected statistics on layoffs? Up to then, they didn't collect the statistics because layoffs were a pretty unusual phenomenon. Companies didn't lay people off. Beginning with the recession of the early 80s, companies said, "You're laid off." It was shocking to the adults to whom it happened, most of whom had planned to spend their whole career with that corporation. But I want you to think about it through the eyes of an 11-year-old who sees their parent, or the guy down the street or a relative, go through this very surprising change in their relationship to their employer.

Tammy Erickson:
Another fascinating thing that happened at this time, is divorce rates skyrocketed. In one decade in the U.S., divorce rates went from 20% to 50%, 1-10-year period. And basically, again, while these guys are in their formative years. Now, you can imagine that while that was happening, there was not a sociologist in the world who knew what to make of it. Everybody was saying, "What does this mean? What is this trend about?" Now, actually, it topped out at 50 and came back down again, but we didn't know that at the time. And so, the topic of conversation was, "Is marriage over?" That's another influence this group had. And because women were working and single-parent families were becoming more common, many of them became latchkey kids, taking care of themselves from early ages, maybe even taking care of younger brothers and sisters.

Tammy Erickson:
Lots of responsibility, lots of independence. Very different experience than later kids have come to have. And they saw the Challenger disaster, the space shuttle that blew up shortly after launch. Now, I'll confess, I'm a boomer. So, to me, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster happened while I was at work. I heard about it, obviously, on the evening news when I got home and, sure, it was really sad. But it didn't really register in my mind as a particularly impactful event. It was one among many. Most Xers know where they were when Challenger exploded. And the way they've processed it, many have said, is yet another institution that let us down.

Tammy Erickson:
So, we have corporations laying people off, marriages ending in divorce, the space agency making a mistake. That's a general view of how Xers began to process during their 11 to 15 years. Think about how that would register in some young person's mind. What kind of a world is that? Who would you trust? Who would you trust if this is the world you see around you? What do you think? What I found from my conversations is that the answer for many is, myself. That's who I trust. And so, if I were to choose one idea about Xers, I think the most powerful idea is self-reliance. This is a group of people who are focused on being able to take care of themselves. Now, I want to emphasize, it's not independence.

Tammy Erickson:
They don't say to me, "I have to be alone. I have to be all by myself." No, they're happy to work as part of an organization, but they want to feel they have backup plans. This concept of "if something bad were to happen" is a very prominent statement among Xers. They want to know they have options, that they're always able to go to plan B if plan A isn't working out quite the way they want it to. Now, let's just pause here for a minute and think about the difference between the two generations I've just discussed, and about an event in the workplace, and how we might see it differently. I want you all, if you would, to think like a boomer for a minute.

Tammy Erickson:
So, I want you to think you've been working all your life to stay ahead of the crowd. You've been trying to get that next step on the ladder, make sure you secure that chair, and I'm your boss. So, I walk in one day and I say, "We'd like you to relocate to corporate headquarters." How does that sound, boomers? What do you think? Pretty good, doesn't it? Because what are you hearing? Good chair, promotion, I heard somebody say, absolutely. Maybe selected, "Out of all these slugs, we've selected you." Right? You've won, celebrate. You're the winner of the chair. So, for boomers, it would fundamentally be good news. Oh, they'd recognize the hassle, of course, but it's good news.

Tammy Erickson:
Now, I want you to think like Xers. You don't trust institutions−not that you don't like them, but you're not going to trust an institution's perspective, blind. So, I'm your boomer boss, and I'm going to come into your office in a few minutes. First, I want you to know that, before I do, I'm going to spend just a minute in the hallway, savoring the thought of that hug you're going to give me. Yeah. Because I know, in a minute, I'm coming in with news that is so great, you're going to be out of your chair and in my arms, right? So, I walk in full of enthusiasm and I say, "We want you to relocate to corporate headquarters." And you say, "Why? Do I have to? Are there any options? Did I do something wrong?"

Tammy Erickson:
And how does that boomer feel? Not pleased. You can see how easy it would be for us to come to loggerheads because our perspectives would be so different. Now, the point I want you to take away is that both of those reactions are perfectly logical. It doesn't mean good or bad; it doesn't mean they're better or worse, just different. We see things differently. We have to process it differently. The Xer will go home, they'll think about it, and they'll come to their own decision about whether or not that move would be a good one for them. They may say, "Yes," or they may say, "No," but they won't just take the institution's view that it's the right move. They have to internalize it, just because that's who they are. That's just a fact about who Xers are.

Tammy Erickson:
They're more flexible with rules; they're very loyal to their friends. That's what I mean by tribal. And they're very dedicated parents. In fact, I believe that−I have found from my research that, when I talk to people about being parents, they say a little bit different things. A classic boomer answer would be, "My role as a parent is to help my kids be successful. I want to help my kids be very successful." A classic Xer answer is more likely to be, "I want to be a good parent." Okay, now you may be thinking, "What's the difference there? Same thing, right?"

Tammy Erickson:
Well, maybe, in the end. But I think very different in terms of their financial planning, and very different in terms of their work within a firm. Now, I told you, for example, that I'm a boomer; I'm actually also a mother. So, I can remember times that companies came to me and said, "Tammy, we want you to take on more responsibility." Well, I can assure you that my boomer mother brain was able to process that request in about 0.3 seconds. And my brain said, "Okay, more responsibility, probably means more money," because it used to. "Therefore, I can kill two birds with one stone. I can get ahead in my career and be a better mother. I'm going to be able to buy more tutoring or ballet lessons or whatever it is that will help my kids be successful. Win-win."

Tammy Erickson:
But a classic Xer, when you go to them and say, "We want you to take on more responsibility," is going to go through a different thought process. Because most Xers have thought long and hard, before they made the decision to become parents, about the type of parent they wanted to be. And for many, it is different than their own parents were with them. So, they may have thought about the amount of time they want to spend with their child, or the kinds of activities they want to engage in. And when you ask them to take on more responsibility, their thought process is to look at your job description, and pull out of their mental pocket their commitment to being a good parent. And to basically say, "Can I do both?"

Tammy Erickson:
And if the answer is, "No," they face a really wrenching decision. I want to emphasize to you how painful this is to Xers. But the point I want to make to you is, Xers have these commitments. And we, as organizations, have to respect and honor those. Otherwise, we're not really understanding who they are as people. They're very important to them. Now, I want to tell you just a little bit about what I call Generation Y, and some people call them millennials. I thought it'd be fun to do it a little bit in the opposite order. So, instead of me telling you what happened to them, let me tell you what I often hear all of us saying about them, and then I'll tell you what happened to make them that way.

Tammy Erickson:
Here's the big one: "They're so impatient." They show up and they immediately say, "What can I do tomorrow? Could I be CEO?" And so, they're always trying to climb the ladder so fast. Is this fair? Well, it's a little bit true, and a little bit not. Think for a minute about what happened to them when they were 11 to 15. I want you to think early 2000s, because that's what influenced this generation. What were we talking about in the early 2000s? I would say, basically, terrorism and school violence, 9/11, Columbine, etc. were the major topics of adult conversation, coupled, of course, with the wars that we fought in response. Now, the interesting thing about terrorism is that it's random. Think about that for a minute.

Tammy Erickson:
If you go to war, a reasonable person realizes they're putting themselves in harm's way. But nobody imagines you've put yourself in harm's way when you go to work. Nobody imagines you put yourself in harm's way when you go to school. Those are inexplicable random events, and that's the world we gave these kids to think about, when they were trying to figure out how to live their lives. Now, if your mental model was "something random could happen tomorrow," how are you going to live your life? I heard somebody say, "For today." I think that reaction would be the most logical reaction in the world, and we cannot fault them for it. That is their reaction. Ys are absolutely obsessed with making sure that what they're doing today is meaningful and challenging and fun, if you can make it.

Tammy Erickson:
This will be a characteristic, I predict, that will stay with them for life. So, it's very important that you give them things that are meaningful and challenging to do. And, by the way, I don't like the word "impatient." I prefer the word "immediate." I think they are very much in the here and now. All right, here's another myth: "They don't plan." Well, why don't they plan? Because another influence on them, of course, was technology. This is our first generation of unconsciously competent users of digital technology. And when you learn something unconsciously, you often invent new things to do. So, those of us who learned it consciously, are probably, to be honest, using our digital technology to do the same old processes we would have done before.

Tammy Erickson:
We're doing them faster or easier, but we're fundamentally doing the same thing. Let me give you an example. Imagine for a minute that I want to go out to dinner with a friend. How do you think I go about that? I'd probably call, we would agree, wouldn't we? On a date, a time, a type of food, a place, who was going to drive, what we were going to wear, right? We'd make a plan. Now, think about the Ys. How would they get together with a friend for dinner? Almost certainly would text. When would they text? Okay, not even an hour before, I can guarantee you that. And what do they text? Is it a plan? No, they do not text a plan, almost never.

Tammy Erickson:
From the texts I've looked at, the majority of them are something like, "Where are you? Where are you?" Right? And then the other guy sends back coordinates, and they begin this process of homing in on each other, like ships using radar, until they meet up someplace. They never plan during the course of it; they coordinate. So, these guys have a very different way of getting things done. Because of their ubiquitous technology, they coordinate instead of planning. Now, I'm not going to argue that that's the way we should do everything, goodness knows, we need some plans and schedules, but don't be 100% resistant to their way. There may be some ways you could actually improve your business by building some of their approaches in.

Tammy Erickson:
I got a call from a CFO once, one of the financial institutions in New York, and he said, "Tammy, I can't get anybody to take my jobs." I said, "Well, that's weird. Why? What are you telling them?" He said, "Well, I'm telling them it's a 60-hour a week job. They're all telling me they'd like 35 hours and maybe 40 in a pinch." He said, "I need you to come down here and talk to them." I said, "Well, I could talk to the kids, but why don't I start by talking to you, and I'll tell you what they're thinking. They're thinking they're really sorry it takes you 40 hours a week to get your work done. They don't think it's going to take that long.

Tammy Erickson:
"Now, I don't know who's right, but what I do know is where you can shift away from time-based metrics, and just say, ‘Here's the task. I need it by Friday. Take as long as it takes. If it takes you 60 hours, that's your problem. If it takes you 30 hours, go have fun, but I need it by Friday.' The more you can manage to tasks, the better off you'll be with this group." Here's another: "They're wildly overconfident," right? Take on any job. I had a company tell me that they spent hours writing job descriptions, very carefully outlining all the requirements. And one person told me that fully 50% of the resumes they were getting, didn't have one of the requirements that was listed on the job description. Not one.

Tammy Erickson:
I said, "Do you have kids?" The person said, "Why? Yes, I do." I said, "Have you ever said to your kids, ‘You can do anything you set your mind to'?" She said, "I say that all the time." I said, "They're here." We've been telling them for years, "they can do anything, they're very special." They're just responding to the way we've conditioned them. So, you need to give them tasks that are challenging. And how about this dependence on mom and dad, any of you ever had mom or dad call the office? Well, some people have. My general comment is, don't blame the kid; they probably have no knowledge that old, crazy boomer Mom and Dad are up to that. But, what is true is they have very close relationships with their parents.

Tammy Erickson:
Parenting during their childhood change to shared fun. So, it wasn't parents did one thing and kids did another, it's all, "Let's go to the movies together, or go skiing," or whatever. So, this generation associates their parents as friends. In fact, 90% say they're very close to their parents. Now, that contrast with boomers, where 40% said they'd be better off with no parents. And how about this one? Oh, yeah, I hear somebody say, "Oh, yeah. Right, trophies." All right, come on now, who were those trophies really for? Where are those trophies today? You know it. Those trophies were for those competitive boomer moms and dads. The kids actually don't care at all. But what they do know is that we care.

Tammy Erickson:
So, it's a little bit ambiguous because I believe Ys don't care about getting the trophies for themselves, but they do care about pleasing their parents. And they know that parents want trophies. And Ys do one thing pretty much universally every week, and that is, they call home. And I want you as an employer to think about the voice on the other end of that phone line. What is the first thing mom says? "How was work this week, honey?" And what does she want to hear? "I won." Right? So, your job as an employer isn't to give them a trophy, it's to give them something to say on the phone call this weekend. You have to give them some ammunition. Now, it can be something like, "My boss spent some time helping me," or something of that sort. But it needs to be ammunition.

Tammy Erickson:
So, this is a generation that is immediate. They're eager; they're confident; they're determined, optimistic, upbeat, digital natives, family-centric. I think it's a great generation, but they're not going to be easy. They've got a lot of thoughts about what they want to take on as they enter your firm. If you've got kids at home who are eighteenish and under, they're members of what I call the "re-generation." Because, this is a group of kids who were very heavily impacted by 2008, by mortgage crisis, by Greek debt loads. They don't know what it means−who does? But they're worried about it. They know about resource shortages, energy, water, carbon emissions. They were reared generally by Xers; they've watched reality TV. And for them, the ubiquitous technology is mobile.

Tammy Erickson:
Any answer you want, right here in your pocket. You don't even have to ask Dad anymore, just Google it. So, these are guys who I find have very different characteristics than the Ys who precede them. These guys are really aware of a world with finite limits. They think a lot about, "How are we going to make the most of the limited resources we have?" One of their characteristics is they will be shockingly frugal. They save already, they defer gratification. They tell me they don't want to own homes; they're happy to rent. Many of them don't want to own cars; they're happy to rent or borrow, etc. And this concept of non-ownership. Many of them crave a life where they're not constrained by physical ownership, but by instead access goods through renting and sharing and bartering and so forth.

Tammy Erickson:
They will be very different in terms of money, and in terms of their characteristics as they come into our world. Very committed to making a difference. So, what's a great job to a boomer? Well, if it's a boomer, it's probably means more power, more money, "I've moved up." If it's an Xer, it probably means more control, more options. And, of course, if it's a Y, they mean it's great today, it's meaningful and challenging. Here's an interesting one, the word "feedback." The word "feedback" to boomers basically means somebody in authority (and we don't like authority figures) is going to judge us, assess us, critique us. Not something very many people want.

Tammy Erickson:
But, all of a sudden, we're in a workplace, surrounded by these crazy young people, who say, "Give me some feedback, give me some feedback, give me some feedback." And we say, being sensible boomers, "Look, kid, I told you last week, you're doing fine. If you're ever not doing fine, I'll mention it. But until then, your performance review is in 11 and a half months." And they're not happy. What were they looking for? What they're really saying is, "Please stop what you're doing, take time out, and spend time telling me how I could do it better. Teach me." They want your time; they want to be taught; they want to be coached hands on. These are some of the most frequent causes of misunderstanding in your workplace.

Tammy Erickson:
And my basic recommendation to you is, just talk about them. Get your group together and say, "Hey, how do we all feel about whether everybody has to be here at 8:30? Or, is it okay that some of us work odd hours? How do we feel about the fact that we use email? Is that okay? Or, should we switch to another technology?" Just bring these things out and talk about them, and come up with whatever is right for your business. Now, I want to close by just offering a few thoughts about how you can use this. I think one important way to use this is just open up and get excited about new ideas. Most organizations go through a process, and where I want you to get to is excitement.

Tammy Erickson:
I want you to get comfortable saying, "Wow, that's a really different point of view than mine. Why do you see it that way? Why does it look that way to you? Let's talk about it." And get excited about the different perspectives people have to bring. You can use it also to shape your messages. And I want to show you an example of an organization that I personally think is brilliant. Now, just imagine here that the message is the same. The message is, "I want you to join my organization." But, think about how the U.S. Army delivered that message when they were going after those traditionalists. People who wanted to join an institution, who loved hierarchy figures. What did they say? Anybody remember?

Tammy Erickson:
Yeah, I picked, "Uncle Sam wants you," kind of thing. "We want you for the Army." Now, this message, frankly, would've really irritated boomers, and they were smart enough not to use it. When they wanted to recruit boomers, that idealistic "me" generation, what did they say? No, "Be all you can be," exactly. Isn't that beautiful? "Be all you can be." When they wanted to recruit the self-reliant Xers, they said, "Army of one." Now, I personally don't know what this means. But, apparently, Xers did, and they signed up for the Army. What are they saying today? And to whom are they saying it? They're talking to the parents. "You made them strong. We'll make them Army strong. Send your kid to the Army."

Tammy Erickson:
Really smart, really good use of generational characteristics. Now, in your business, I think these generational characteristics have great applicability, because one of the big differences, of course, is how people view money; it's how they view family relationships. So, let me just mention a couple things there. For traditionalists, money is largely a reward−it's a deferred gratification; it's a sign that you joined, you paid your dues, you moved up the ladder, and now you're reaping the rewards of that membership. They like rules and respect authority. They like process, manners, loyalty, honesty. So, those are all important in servicing them. You know that.

Tammy Erickson:
You want to be straightforward. You want to take time to build a relationship. And one of the most powerful, I think, tools with traditionalists is, again, to play on this membership. The more you can make them feel like they are a member of your organization, they have some benefits of membership. That's a powerful concept for them. Now, for boomers, money is a sign they've won. And it also allows you to go back to some of those idealistic views of teenhood and make a difference. And it helps you, may help your kids be successful. Those are probably the big three for money for boomers.

Tammy Erickson:
And midlife becomes a time for many, when they want to touch on some of those teen goals. And we find many boomers today, who are doing more with their church or their school or community. They want to be associated with the best. Winners want winners. So, a basic marketing message, when you're going after boomers, is to make sure they know your firm is the best. You're going to get the best service; you know they're the best, you're going to give them the best. Winners want winners. For Gen X, money is about options. Having money means I have more control; I have more options. It gives me this sense of ability to back up if something bad were to happen. As you know, Gen X is a generation that's been hard hit by many of the financial events of our time.

Tammy Erickson:
And I suspect their big midlife issue will be around entrepreneurship. This is a group of people who want to be self-sufficient, and where they can, entrepreneurial. So, when you're working with Xers, don't try to tell them that this is what your institution has calculated they should do. Give them choices and give them the information they need to sort it out on their own. Communicate options at every opportunity. And talk about contingencies. "If things were to go bad, here's what we'll do. We thought through the backup plans, the plan Bs," etc. Never say, "Just trust us." That's a waste of time. And support your offerings through technology.

Tammy Erickson:
For Ys, well, many are still pretty tightly tied to parents. In general, often, their attitude is, "Hey, what's yours is ours, right? Your house is our house. So, here I am." And so, focusing on money hasn't been a high priority for a lot of Ys. As they do, keep in mind, they function by technology. So, they live their life online; they expect tech-based service; they expect you to respond instantly to text. They do not answer emails. So, don't even waste your time with those. Or, if you do, send them a text to say, "Please look at your email." And they welcome advice. So, they like knowledgeable people. They're comfortable working with older people, and they also are likely to consult their parents on advice of who should be their financial advisors.

Tammy Erickson:
So, that's the generations, both in the workplace and a little bit in your client place. Bottom line, appreciate them. That's my bottom line. Enjoy the fact that we're different and we see things differently. Secondly, make sure you give all these different points of view space in your organization, by making it legitimate for different people to see it. And there are a lot of times when you can shape your messages to more effectively adapt to what's important to each generation. That's my advice for making the most of this multi-generational world that we live in today. Thank you very much.

Based on the work of developmental psychologists, collaboration expert Tammy Erickson delivers a 40-minute seminar on generational characteristics. She includes examples of common misunderstandings that may occur due to unique generational perspectives.

Key Points

  • Traditionalists – born 1928-1945. Joiners, loyal to institutions, respectful of authority.
  • Baby Boomers – born 1946-1960. Competitive, hard-working, anti-authority, idealistic.
  • Generation X – born 1961-1979. Self-reliant, distrustful of institutions, flexible.
  • Generation Y – born 1980-1995. Immediate, optimistic, digital native, family-centric.
  • Re-Generation – born after 1995. Informed, conservationist, pragmatic, wants to make a difference.
  • Common misunderstandings and how to tailor your messages by generation
  • How to make the most of your multigenerational workforce
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