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Editorial Team
31 Oct 2018

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Technology, Technology on the Cloud Who is the Best Generation of them all!

Understanding how technology looks and feels across generation, the major challenges managing a multi-generational organization and how to bridge the gap

A usual weekend goes by scooting through books. The pick was Gothic novels. ‘Mina’ from ‘The Dracula’ fame half scoffs and half wonders seeing the cinematography (yes, the commonplace term used for cinemas). Now and then there were Frankenstein’s monster or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde giving me some small goosebumps. In retrospect, the real dreads were technology and adapting to something new. I scoffed at the thought and went to wonder about the Jetsons or Dexter’s Laboratory, a century after and we were all dreamy-eyed about the technology. Perspectives change with generations you see!

So, as we are almost there in the ‘future’ from sci-fi movies (not the dystopian ones). Of course, we are far away from flying cars or time machines. But, we sure have got mobiles as our body part, Video calls, texting, GPS and a compulsive need to stay indoors while we get everything “online” or in-app. If you nod your head in negative to even one of these, then you have reached the zenith of self-actualization.

A shock there and a necessity somewhere

Roll the reels back a bit and you will see a childhood where you had to travel to your Grandparent’s place and FaceTime was not even a thing. There was a time when photographs were for special occasions and clicking selfies every day was a thing fantasies were made of. This will make sense to a baby boomer or a Generation X (maybe early millennial). But, the average millennial professional got the taste of technology as we know today by his or her sophomore year. Technology is an obvious thing for them. Her baby boomer boss will beg to differ as there were years in the job for this guy, where he faxed, called and not emailed, instant messaged or ‘Skyped’.

Say hello to technology-driven change!

Technology has not just helped the present jobs, but created expertise that was never there, even a decade back. It is no wonder that our parents won’t understand what we do to get paid 70% of the times. But, what happens when a company like EY with a five generation wide workforce decides it’s time to give audit, advisory and accounts a technological facelift?

Martin Fiore was leading the change at EY and the challenge was to come up with a training plan to get people to understand how this massive technological entry will have practical bearings. Now, millennials will understand an interactive session more, while a baby boomer senior will see one-on-one coaching as the best training process. The change involved 260,000 professionals around EY. Customized training for all now sure looks like an unattained utopia.

80% Executives in Fortune 500s agree that generation gap gives them the jitters when it comes to communication. Say goodbye to the one-size-fits-all approach and communicate new technology in a multi-generational workforce. Baby boomers, who are at the senior level may feel a bit squeamish about applications like Slack. Coming from the mail and fax era, they took their time to get used to emails (after many unfortunate unintended sends). Now, doing away altogether with emails and memos looks like a brand new sequel of the previous nightmare. The Millennials, on the other hand, are in cahoots with applications like Slack. They prefer to read tweets more than a memo or newsletter.

No disrespect, but some taken…

A tweet here and an update there, millennials are the generation that enters boardrooms with mobiles to take quick notes. The pens and notepad holding Gen X may feel it is somewhat disrespectful. You will say that Generation X or Baby boomers too tweet or post on Social Media. But, millennials put their hearts out in that space. It is their version of journals. Most of the times you see head scratching and eyes rolling in a typical millennial-generation X official conversation.

Too many tabs open – that is how you can define a typical millennial working style. They are great multitaskers. The Baby boomer CEO will have a tough time to fathom how someone delivers presentations with headphones on and a game screen running parallel in the PC. The millennial, on the other hand, is having a tough time digesting how the Generation X to baby boomer top management notes every twitch and shrug to understand the fine line between your words and motive.

Yes, all the texting, virtual platforms, and social media have a side effect after all. The generation that grew up among these has a tough time grasping non-verbal cues (yes, which is why dating is getting tougher by the minute).

Using the ‘gap’ to unite

The solution lies in the gap. Deploy people the task they are best at. While you go for compulsory tech training for your staff, make sure Generation X are more into people roles. Give core technical jobs to the millennials and let the older generation be the mentors at the people skills department. The trick is to make everyone feel important. Respect- that is the word here. Create a working culture that focusses on learning and recognizing individual skills. Do not let just one generation be the sole hero.

Do away with the one-size-fits-all style altogether. Create training and communication chain that your employees can relate with. And know this fact that creating this one ecosystem might be the biggest challenge. Take inputs from across generations.

Let them talk!

Millennials think that the generation before them are dinosaurs. The Generation X and baby boomers look at these people as a bunch of entitled kids who think they deserve to own everything. Remember, the first time you saw your friend, at least one of you thought then that the other was a complete snob. What got you talking then? It was some common ground or an avenue for collaboration that got you going. Take a note from that experience and create a collaborative team now, which has people from cross-generations. Once you get them talking stereotypes start fading away.

You will always find that one millennial who likes handwritten notes and will open a physical map while cursing the demon of GPS. There is always that Generation X, who breathes technology, the baby boomer boss who skypes you every day, texts and never shoots an email. So, more than a generation, we need to focus on individuals. Learning needs vary from one individual to the other. So, how comfortable are you with technology when compared to your peers from the same generation? Do you feel an overdose of technology and wish the old ways were back? What will be your peculiar work day (and leisure day) without our dear technology? Do you feel the generation gap is transforming into a divide? Tell us your technology adaption stories.

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