Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boomers and Work, two different perspectives

As I move closer to my birthday and reflect on the past I realize that we, as boomers, have made many mistakes but we have also made many remarkable advancements that have led to the development of some of the most amazing technologies that have ever existed. For example my Android phone is closer to me than my heartbeat!

Yes, I am an older boomer but I have not let technology pass me by. I care deeply about the environment and climate change and though I enjoy my work, there is nothing more important to me than my family.

Over the years when I worked I have had to deal with many changes in the work place, some good, some interesting and some not so good. So what have we as a generation contributed to the value of work over the years? Here is a Generation X and a Millennial perspective, which speaks only to the good and interesting contributions of my generation. I am sure there are many bad points as well, but in the spirit of the season, I will not address those at this time.

The Gen X Perspective written by Sarah Schmid and published here:
If you have watched the television show “Mad Men,” then you are already familiar with the way offices used to look and operate pre-boomers. In addition, if you think women were treated poorly back then, black people were treated even worse.

Boomers coined key phrases like “glass ceiling” and “workplace discrimination,” and, under their watch, people began to break through the prevailing all-white boys’ club culture. The diversity that is now championed in many offices is a direct result of the boomers’ fight for civil rights and social equality. And that’s had real business results: This new diversity of thinking helps keep companies from becoming stagnant when it comes to policies and processes.

Whether it is redesigning office spaces and workstations to accommodate employee needs, or offering benefits like daycare for children and eldercare programs to boomers with ailing parents, this generation pioneered the family-friendly workplace. Today, these kinds of programs are becoming crucial to maintaining productivity and morale — and to help businesses retain employees.

As more boomers retire, many companies will lose an enormous amount of institutional knowledge. Fields that require technical know-how will be most affected when the estimated 76 million boomers leave the workforce. As a result, many companies are putting more collaborative tools in place so that some of this knowledge can be easily shared — or even stored in the cloud. The impending departure of so many senior employees has lit a fire under management to implement new collaborative and cloud-based technologies before it’s too late. And that has irreversibly changed the way many offices manage information.

Just as the race to transfer knowledge to younger employees has forced companies to adopt new technologies, they will similarly soon have to implement changes that will allow retirees to continue to serve as consultants or part-time employees. According to an MIT report, some corporations such as Proctor & Gamble and Eli Lilly have already implemented programs that organize and pool retired talent for younger workers to access for help.

This is not just a result of boomers’ impending retirement: Self-employment and part-time work has exploded under boomers’ watch, as has the trend toward a more mobile workforce.

Boomers changed the workplace, and shaped the way that Generation X approaches work. In addition, while the road has been bumpy at times, my generation and those following should appreciate the strides made by the boomers that led to today’s new world of work.

The Millennial Perspective written by Ritika Puri and published here:
Having worked in non-profits, local government, and enterprise tech, I have always been surrounded by coworkers from all across the demographic spectrum.

My mentors, allies, and friends — the people nearest and dearest to my heart — are all millennials, boomers and Gen X’ers. We have had our generational quarrels, but at the end of the day, our differences are a speck in the dust compared to the admiration that we share for one another.

That is why topics like generation bashing and age discrimination feel like a punch to the gut. When I hear the stereotype of ‘younger people are smarter‘or ‘more tech savvy,’ I am inclined to disagree — strongly. (Sorry, Mark Zuckerberg).

With three generations currently active in the workplace, we’re in a unique position to learn from each other’s strengths and complement one another’s weaknesses. Unfortunately, I’ve seen my fellow millennial's sometimes take a polar opposite approach — mocking their baby boomer bosses for not knowing the ins and outs of Microsoft Excel, for instance.

We need to put an end to this attitude by focusing on the strengths that each person brings to the table — regardless of generation. From my personal, millennial perspective, here are some amazing ways that the baby boomer legacy has changed the world of wor.

Boomers are responsible for making entrepreneurial ecosystems like Silicon Valley what they are today.

Having spent more than two decades in Silicon Valley, I've seen this ecosystem give birth to companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and many others. And I've watched boomers — like my father — create this environment from the ground up in building transformative companies from nothing.

Now, I am an early-stage entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, and what I’m learning is that building a business is exhausting, grueling, and confidence-shattering — all at the same time. And yet, I persist — thanks to the people who have been right where I am now, generations before me.

Thanks to the boomers who were once me.

My boomer mentors taught me to be patient and to realize that there are decades of unknowns in front of me. My life can be anything, and it’s the stories of Silicon Valley’s boomers that help me stay optimistic when I simply want to quit.

By 2015, most boomers will have been through so much in life — raising families, buying homes, traveling the world and even becoming grandparents. And they have come of age during an incredibly turbulent time in history, which has inevitably shaped their thinking and approach to the workplace.

It’s no surprise that, as a result, they have changed how we approach work/life balance, reminding us of the holistic perspective: Business is, ultimately, a means to an end.

One of the most valuable skills that I’ve learned from my boomer mentors is to be more patient. I firmly believe that practicing this skill is what has helped me generate some of my biggest successes as a leader and manager to date. And, if I’m being honest, without this guidance, I would have probably driven myself crazy.

The boomers who have helped shape my career are great salespeople because they are cool, calm and collected. They are polite; they are fully present in client conversations; and they are always listening with an inquisitive mind.

As an entrepreneur, I am also a salesperson — a role in which basic manners go a long way. Thanks to some cues from my boomer mentors, I’ve learned a number of what today we call ‘hacks’ — things as simple as turning off my phone during meetings so that I am fully present, listen before speaking and making recommendations, and owning up to my mistakes. Boomers have taught me business tactics that should be obvious, but are not always the easiest to do.

The reality is that the ‘always on’ and ‘get things done’ attitude that millennials have can be quite abrasive — to anyone, in any generation.

What I’ve learned from boomers is to always be fully attentive.

Boomers are the tech world’s original innovators —they’re responsible for making the world of work what it is today. These masters of patience can help us millennials stay grounded as we forge our own paths in life. Yes, work cultures are evolving and yes, we’re witnessing radical transformations in the workspace. But that doesn’t mean that boomers have nothing to offer in shaping the new world of work. We’re in a great position to learn as much as we can, across the generations.

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