Multigenerational Mindset

I watched a video on Youtube recently and came across a term I hadn’t consciously thought of before — “Multigenerational Mindsets”.

Although in the video Josh was referring to a group of mindsets, I prefer to think about it in the singular. Having a “Multigenerational Mindset” seems like the perfect descriptor for a state of mind where one embraces the varying skills and experiences that different generations bring to the table.

[edit: Josh is now my employer. Dec, 14]

This aligns perfectly with my own thoughts on professional learning and organisational development, but it seems as though a lot of people don’t necessarily share the same view. This is apparent on both ends of the generational spectrum.

Plenty of graduates, or those newly entered into the workforce unfortunately think that the ways of the past are antiquated and wrong. Conversely, plenty of seasoned professionals see younger generations as supercilious, and/or inexperienced.

In both cases the parties would be better off swallowing their pride, and reframing their viewpoints around the qualities that each generation can offer. The benefits are huge not only for the organisation, but also for the individual.

I think the law of averages would be in my favour when I say that older generations are likely to be able to leverage long-term experience and offer ‘bigger picture’ skills, and younger generations bring to the table new, creative approaches (often driven by technology) and can affect change that’s more readily visible in the details.

This mirrors the work that each generation tends to be doing anyway. Younger employees are typically more focused on the smaller picture and, by proxy, projects with shorter timelines. As we progress through to more senior positions, projects zoom out further and further to ‘big picture’ assignments, eventually leading to the CEO who sets the strategic vision for the future of the company.

This isn’t to say there aren’t 23 year old C-level executives, and that there aren’t octogenarians in the mailroom, just that statistically the scenario mentioned above is quite likely in a lot of organisations.

I don’t think there’s any intrinsic issue in things staying this way either, just as long as those in any position understand that everyone can add value regardless of their generation, and more importantly, have a unique value proposition because of their generation.

If this is true then, how do we facilitate and encourage a multigenerational mindset?

I believe managers and leaders in workplaces need to create an environment where any individual has the ability to contribute in a meaningful way. I also think that the burden (read: opportunity) lies initially with those with a position of power (whether explicit or implicit) to make sure the workplace is one that values meaningful input from all employees.

The first step is for individuals to acknowledge where they sit in the generational spectrum, identify the real strengths that they have, and then look outward at peers who can proffer skills that complement their own. This needs to be done without the filter of age, but with a more open and humble view, that there are unique offerings at each point plotted along the spectrum.

For me, this has been a hugely rewarding way for me to approach the training I’ve ran. I’d actually say that the lions share of attendees I’ve delivered training to have been older than myself, but I’ve always tried to cultivate an environment where I showed that each of us has experiences worth learning from.

Additionally, I think there’s a huge opportunity for more seasoned professionals to elicit input from younger generations and apply that to the experience they already have. They’ll gain a more holistic understanding of the influences, opportunities and approaches available to them, and better achieve the objectives of the company.

In an age where the pace of change is faster than it’s ever been, where org charts are flatter, roles less defined, and all individuals have constant access to all of humanities collective knowledge (in their pocket no less), the organisations that thrive will be those with teams that set aside generational differences and utilise the unique skills brought forward by talent regardless of age.

Once published in 2013, at nathanclark.me.

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