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Working across Generations: A workplace dilemma

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The View From Taft

The Commission on Population (Popcom) projected that by the end of 2019, there will be about 108.88 million Filipinos. The growth also means that about 1.4 million Filipinos will be added to the country’s workforce, boosting our total workforce to about 70 million employable Filipinos. With the increasing number of employees year after year, companies must be able to provide their managers with knowledge and essential skills on how to manage different employees from various generations who are present in today’s workplace.

Many workplaces are comprised of employees from five generations that includes: Traditionalist (those born before 1946), Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1976), Generation Y or Millennials (those born between 1977 and 1997) and Generation Z (those born after 1997).

This kind of diversity has its own benefits which can include knowledge sharing, i.e., experience and technical skills, fresh and creative ideas, and different perspectives from different people coming from different backgrounds and age groups. However, because of this same diversity, conflicts and misunderstandings often arise.

In our company, I work with employees from four different generations, from Baby Boomers to Generation Z. Most of the time, it is engaging to talk with them because we can learn from one another, hear different perspectives, and explore new ideas. However, there are also times that because of the generational gap, tensions arise. These situations leads to an unpleasant working environment and can affect the employee’s productivity and motivation. Thus, companies must ensure that they have established the needed skills and knowledge for the employees to recognize and minimize any potential conflict. It is important to create a positive environment for all despite the generational gap and difference in perspective.

In an article written by Rebecca Knight in 2014 entitled “Managing People from 5 Generations,” she offered some practical advice that companies can adapt to ensure positive interaction:

• Do not dwell on differences. Each one of us tends to focus on what is different or negative from us rather than our own similarities. It is important to avoid any stereotypes about various generations and languages that alerts generalizations: “All (insert generation) are like this…” Truth is, there is no proof that there is a specific difference between 35-year-old managers from 20 years ago and the 35-year-old managers of today.

• Build collaborative relationships. It is important to develop a professional relationship with our colleagues. The more that we work closely with them, the more that we can understand and appreciate them better. Having a venue where employees of different generations can interact in both professional and personal setting can develop their trust with one another, build relationships and minimize understandings.

• Study your employees. It is important that we know who our employees and colleagues are. This will help us understand what their needs and employee communication preferences are.

• Create opportunities for cross-generational mentoring. This can be an older generation teaching a younger generation his or her knowledge or a younger generation teaching an older generation a new skill. No one is too old or too young to learn a new trick or two. Everyone must have an equal opportunity to teach and to learn.

• Consider life paths. It is important to understand where employees are at their current point in life in terms of responsibilities and interests outside of the workplace. It also gives us an idea of their priorities and where do they want to be in the next five to 10 years of their life. This can provide insights on the commonalities and differences that each generation may share.

At the end of the day, it is important to make sure that all employees feel that they respected (implying both respect for others and self-respect) and valued by the company despite the generational gap. Each employee is important for his or her knowledge and skills and contributes to the company’s success. The more we can understand each other, the better we can work together.

 

Rachel Anne Solano is an MBA student at De La Salle University’s Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. This essay was written as part of the requirement in her Strategic Human Resource Management class.

rachel_solano@dlsu.edu.ph

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