There are no “generations” at the workplace – only people.

A TED talk I watched over lunchtime today inspired me to write this article. In the talk, Leah Georges talks about her take on how generational stereotypes hold us back at work.

I’ve embedded the video at the bottom of the page.

Assuming a “generational” divide is misleading.

When I started my journey in internal digitalisation, the field was heavily driven by the “the millennials are coming” theme. The fear of a new, digitally savvy generation at the workplace drove companies to introduce all sorts of modern technology tools.

Only occasionally, the workforce and future users were part of the process and asked for what they struggle with or where they believed to benefit from new digital support potentially. One fundamental assumption of all initiatives was the affinity of all young people to digital and in particular social tools.

This assumption has two main issues:

  • It creates the hypothesis that young people don’t need proper support when it comes to “digital at the workplace”.
  • It creates the impression that today’s talent, which is clearly older than 25, isn’t equipped to adapt or – god forbid – teach the use of modern digital tools.

Lack of purpose and change management

Frankly, if there is one generation, that will respond poorly to a lack of purpose and a proper framework to work in, it’s the digital generation. If there is one thing literature, trivia, TED.com and Simon Sinek teach us about the youngsters, then it’s the new emphasis on a sense in life as well as work life.

It’s not just the work-life-balance anymore that Generation X (= me) was/is striving for. Work has to have more purpose than just a monthly paycheck.

This need for purpose is particularly relevant in times of change, globalisation and internationalisation. The more geographically and culturally cluttered teams are, the stronger the common foundation needs to be.

Leaving out the mighty silver surfers

I can honestly say: I’ve met more mid-50s with great curiosity and will to learn than early-30s. If someone tells me that it’s the new generations that are solely driven by digital, I happily refer to my cousin (end 20s) who needs approx. two weeks to answer a WhatsApp text.

If we leave out the “older” generations in the change process, we don’t tap into two paramount pre-conditions for success:

  • Substantial knowledge on how business is happening in real life and the shop floor and what’s needed to unlock hidden potential #
  • A truly connected and experienced crew that knows their way around and can open doors we didn’t even know existed

So, let’s no longer base change and change management on generational stereotypes and assumptions. Let’s address the humans behind the age of birth and build a sustainable and robust feeling of belonging and “we”.

Enjoy Leah’s TED Talk, which inspired me to write this…

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