If you’ve read the news lately, you probably think there is an ongoing battle between Millennials and Baby Boomers. We (Millennials) are said to ruin everything – especially in the workplace. We [supposedly] bring entitlement, laziness, disrespect, and the participation-trophy complex.
Millennials take the stance that Baby Boomers are stubborn, cranky, too stuck in their ways, and technologically inept. However, I’m here to say these generations (and Gen Xers, too!) can actually pleasantly co-exist in today’s workplace – and more importantly, even collaborate and produce incredible results together.
I feel that I am particularly qualified to talk about this topic because, well, I’m a young Millennial in a company that was literally created to keep Baby Boomers in the workforce. At first, I was unsure about my choice to even work at YourEncore when I realized I was going to be the youngest person in my company by nearly 10 years. I barely make the Millennial cutoff on the backside, and my fellow Millennial colleagues flirt more closely with the Gen X end of the spectrum. (I've since embraced the age diversity in my company, and am proud to say that I have formed some amazing relationships through YourEncore – both personally and professionally.)
Even so, the Millennial representation is comparatively small within my company when looking at the makeup of the workforce overall. If you include our Expert Community of over 10,000 people – mostly Boomers – then the percentage of Millennials is miniscule.
Yet, we’re on the leading edge of transforming the workforce to help all these generations work together better than they ever have before. And, from my seat, the Boomers are putting in just as much heavy lifting as us Millennials in changing the way we work.
My boss, our Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, is a young Baby Boomer – and in the last year, I’ve seen him take strides to transform our company from a stereotypical Boomer-centric, very 1990s/early 2000s “Corporate America” culture to an innovative, age-diversity-friendly workplace, where I feel empowered to speak up in meetings with our C-Suite, and our Experts (Baby Boomers!) are even looking to me for guidance on how to build their personal brand and market themselves in today’s hyper-competitive workforce. With advice and input founded in real life experience and knowledge, it’s always been easy for me to respect what my more experienced colleagues and our Experts bring to the table, but when this wisdom gets combined with an open mind for what a Millennial can bring to the conversation, then the real growth begins.
My boss didn’t start implementing these changes in the company because Millennials complained and begged for them. He initiated these changes because he knew that to “talk the talk” to clients about the challenges they’re facing when providing them with strategies and resources to optimize their workforce, we need to “walk the walk” in our own company and be optimizing our own workforce internally.
And obviously, the best way to do this is to create an environment where new ideas are welcomed – no matter who they’re coming from – and every person in the organization feels valued. When we are sharing the ways our Experts can accelerate innovation for clients, we need to be able to communicate that cross-generational collaboration in the workplace will spark the innovation companies need to move forward – and we need to speak from experience. When you combine experience and deep knowledge with fresh perspectives, magic is bound to happen – and lack of productivity from repeated failed attempts can be minimized.
He also recognizes that setting up programs to help employees grow and feel connected isn’t just silly Millennial fluff (although we do love this stuff). These programs benefit everyone. They’re things that everyone wants – but nobody has ever thought to ask for. Until Millennials came in.
He recognizes that to be sustainable as a company, we need to encourage growth for the next generation of leaders. We need to get involved in our communities. We need to engage our employees so that they’re proud of where they work. This excitement will show through every interaction we have with clients and Experts alike – and create excitement around the company for them, too!
Speaking of growing the next the generation of leaders, I have the honor of participating in our company’s pilot Leadership Development Program – where the benefit of having an age diverse workplace has been glaringly obvious.
Our CEO (a Baby Boomer) and our CFO (a Gen Xer) participate in the program’s bi-weekly meetings. They both were instrumental in the founding of the company – which means they know what has worked and what hasn’t for our company since its inception over 14 years ago. They come armed with the experience we need to make informed decisions and with the organizational roots we need to make sure we aren’t straying from who we are as a company. But fortunately for us – they also come with the humility to know that change is necessary to grow and transform as the market needs change. And the way their eyes light up when listening to the ideas – and seeing the passion – that the participants (mostly Millennials) of the program share in each meeting shows that we all need each other.
Through that same program, I’ve been working on a culture-building initiative to better train employees on our company and our brand so that we are all speaking the same language, both internally and externally. I’ve had the privilege of working directly with our CEO to make sure my project deliverables accurately reflect where we’ve come from (which is extremely important), and where we are going (also extremely important). I remember being so nervous as I sent an email to our CEO, CFO, and Managing Director of HR asking to be involved in addressing some findings from our employee engagement survey – that quite frankly, I have no business being involved in based on my job title. But, employee engagement is something I’m very passionate about maintaining as part of my career, so I asked. To my surprise, our CEO emailed back that night and said he was glad I wanted to help.
I am thrilled to be a part of a company where I can step outside my comfort zone and email our CEO asking to step outside my marketing responsibilities and into a new territory. I am thrilled to work in a company where my more experienced colleagues are more than willing to guide me by sharing and using their past experiences and knowledge. I am thrilled to work for a company where I have access to our Experts, who are some of the most accomplished people in their industries and have held C-suite and senior management positions at the world’s leading companies. (#Goals, am I right?) And I am thrilled that each and every one of these people value my perspective, just as much as I value theirs.
Every generation, and every individual, has something unique to bring to the table. We all have so much to learn from each other, and from knocking down the hypothetical generational walls and letting each other shine, we can create an infinite flow of knowledge and innovation that can transform companies, communities, and even the world. All we have to do is keep swinging the sledgehammer.
About Bri Jones: Bri Jones is the Senior Marketing Specialist at YourEncore. She is passionate about creating connections and helping others be successful in their careers at every stage, from those entering the workforce for the first time after college, to highly experienced professionals who are looking to differentiate themselves and showcase their accomplishments as they transition to the freelance workforce. She graduated from Purdue University in May 2016, and has worked in marketing for Purdue's Center for Career Opportunities (the 3rd best university career services office in the nation), as well as several marketing agencies and corporations in the food and financial planning industries.