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Business coach out to bridge generation gaps

Tinker Barnett foresees problems for businesses unwilling to bridge generational gaps in the workplace.

Aging baby boomers, many of them in management and ownership positions, must not only understand their differences with younger employees, but also adapt business practices to those differences to avoid costly turnover and lost productivity.

While the issue isn’t as pressing in the aftermath of a recession and slow recovery, it will become more urgent when the economy improves and young employees who are dissatisfied with their jobs start looking elsewhere.

“Those challenges will change the way business is done,” said Barnett, a Grand Junction businesswoman who has launched a generational gap coaching firm.

For the first time ever, four distinct generations can be found in the United States workplace, Barnett said.

A generation dubbed Traditionalists age 66 to 83 comprise only about 6 percent of the work force, while baby boomers age 47 to 65 account for the largest share of the work force at 41 percent. The work force also includes members of Generation X age 31 to 46 and Generation Y under 31.

Barnett said the differences are particularly profound between the baby boomers who own and manage businesses and members of Generation Y who are just starting out in their careers.

Baby boomers tend to consider their careers one of the most important aspects of their lives and believe work should be done on the job until it’s completed, she said.

Members of Generation Y, on the other hand, are more likely to try to strike a balance between work, family and friends, she said. Thanks to technological advances in computers and telecommunications, members of Generation Y believe work can be completed anywhere and on their own schedules.

These differences and others foster frustration in the workplace, Barnett said.

Baby boomers believe members of Generation Y don’t want to work hard and disrespect older managers and co-workers. Meanwhile, members of Generation Y believe they’re not getting the career experiences they need and consider leaving.

There are a number of reasons why it’s important for businesses to resolve that frustration, Barnett said.

As baby boomers age and retire, they’ll leave behind open positions for which there aren’t enough members of younger generations to fill, she said. Since many members of Generation X tend to distrust companies and value their own interests, they’re less likely to step into management roles. That leaves Generation Y.

There are advantages to the situation, though, since Generation Y is second only to the baby boom generation in terms of education, Barnett said. In addition, members of Generation Y are more resilient and better suited to a changing workplace.

Businesses can avoid a coming brain drain by creating workplaces that attract and retain members of Generation Y, she said. Such workplaces offer not only more flexible schedules and opportunities for telecommuting, but also clear career paths and meaningful work.

Barnett said she can help businesses through coaching and workshops to understand generational differences, improve workplace relationships and institute changes that attract Generation Y workers.

For starters, business owners and managers can complete a free, 10-question assessment available on Barnett’s Web site   at www.GenerationalDivideCoaching.com.

In addition, Barnett said she’s looking for two companies with which to test her coaching and workshop services at no charge. More information also is available by calling Barnett at 589-0020.

Barnett brings to her venture nearly 20 years of experience with the U.S. Postal Service in Grand Junction, including supervisory positions. She also worked with the office of development at Colorado Mesa University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in business administration.

In addition to her work experience, Barnett has worked with the young participants of the Mesa County Partners Western Colorado Conservation Corps.

While businesses face difficulties if they don’t bridge generational gaps in the workplace, Barnett said it’s possible to not only bridge those gaps, but also profit from the differences younger employees offer.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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Posted by on Oct 26 2011. Filed under Business News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Post Your Thoughts Below

  • Educk

    I think this is a great summary of the differences amoung the genrations as well as the problem business face in light of these differences. I find this topic very interesting and look forward to reading more indepth material on it as it becomes available.

    I am a member of Generation Y and agree with the generalities mentioned above; work-life balance is a very key ingrediant to a happy Gen Y’er. In addition to this balance, working with people I get along with well, and working under manager’s I respect who are eager to help me learn, are the top three things I desire in a job.  

    • Tinkerb

      Thank you, Gen Y, for sharing what is most important to you in your work. It sounds as though people are very important to the quality and quantity of your performance. Honestly, positive and supportive coworkers are not a “Gen Y thing” but a universal need, something all generations want. The gap arises in the absence of them and how long employees will “put-up-with” workplaces where they come up missing; Boomers endure and Gen Y expect better. The  “getting along with”, “who you respect” and is “eager to help me learn” are common Gen Y goals in a job. My hope is that leaders will commit to these expectations for the good of their people and the longevity of their organization.  

  • http://yourhealthwise.com Claudette McFarquhar

    It is very interesting to view the generations from  these perspectives. Each generation can surely  learn something from the next generation. Most goals can be met by using a variety of approaches. Baby boomers entered the workforce, completed the tasks at the work site not out of choice, but as a way of life. The innovation of technology is revolutionary and contributes greatly to difference with the generations. Gen Y and X just cannot help themselves. Their world is mobile phones and computers. They live, eat and breathe through this technology. Boomers were required to be physically on the job, to get the job done. Gen Y  & X are  asking, “Why go to work to use the computer, when I have a computer at home?

    Claudette
    yourhealthwise

    • Tinkerb

      I agree, Claudette that there is opportunity to put the best qualities of each generation together for a new synergy that companies have not experienced before. Recognizing and understanding our differences is a necessary first step. It is true that faster, cheaper technology has created more gaps than anything and yet, there is probably at least one app that will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of any business.  I believe you are correct in identifying physical presence at the office as a major gap; my father went to the workplace everyday where the phone, files and customers were. However, we all need a community of supportive coworkers as we labor.  

  • Jp2palmer

    What a perfectly timed and much needed service this business offers.  My own experience as a high school Language Arts teacher leads me to agree with the basic premises here.  There is, and to some extent always has been, a generational gap in the workplace that leads to loss of efficiency and to frustration for all parties involved.  Hooray, for Barnett’s Generational Divide Coaching!

    • Tinkerb

      Thank you, Jacqueline, for your qualified affirmation.

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