Different generations bring unique benefits to the farm
For the first time, four generations are involved on the farm. This includes matures (ages 62 and older), baby boomers (ages 43–61), Generation X (ages 31–42) and Generation Y (ages 13–30).
While every person is unique, there are definite similarities within the generations. Values, habits and goals are a few of the traits that each generation has in common.
"When you look at your operation, you want to identify how people communicate and how decisions are made."
Chris Barron, an Iowa farmer and Top Producer columnist, says that in his 12-person farm group, partners range in age from 20 to 72. He can easily see different communication styles. "A Generation Y will text you, a Generation X will email you, a baby boomer will call you, and a mature will want to put it on paper" Barron explains.
Overcoming these tendencies might not be easy, but at the very least you can understand why the people in your operation think and act the way they do. "When you look at your operation, you want to identify how people communicate and how decisions are made," Barron says. "This will help you define their generational differences and their preferred work habits."
Communication Defines. Kevin Spafford, Farm Journal succession planning expert, says personal
experience is a key reason different generations might participate in poor communication.
A helpful exercise to create clear communication is to divide everyone in the operation into groups based on their age, Spafford says. Then have each group/generation share ideas about what they need from the others and what they have to offer to the others. "This can be an eye-opening conversation," he says. "It’s the responsibility of each generation to better understand and empathize with the other generations involved on the farm."
Decoding the Generations
Chris Barron, an Iowa farmer and a Top Producer columnist, says you should define all of the people in your operation in terms of their generational group. Then you can more easily determine how each individual would like to communicate and be treated. Here are the common characteristics of each generation.
Matures (ages 62 and older): This group believes that hard work and dedication lead to rewards. They tend to struggle with diversity, change and technology. Matures:
- Are punctual and rarely miss work
- Are committed to organization
- Respect authority
- Have great interpersonal skills
- Exhibit a good worth ethic
Baby Boomers (ages 43–61): The baby boomers are considered the "me" generation. They don’t deal with conflict or diversity well and tend to be self-promoting. Overall, they:
- Are competitive and hard-working
- Get the job done at any cost
- Are seen as sacrificing personal life to achieve personal goals
- Are driven and service-oriented
- Are team players
Generation X (ages 31–42): This group is known as the "latchkey kids," meaning that both their parents worked, which caused them to be independent. Overall, Generation X tends to be open to feedback and is good at networking. Their common characteristics are:
- They digest information rapidly
- They witnessed the economic challenges of the 80s
- They might not sacrifice personal life for the business or company
Generation Y (ages 13–30): Typically Generation Y is good at multitasking and appreciates diversity.
This group is more cooperative and civic-minded. They also tend to have strong parental attachments and need more recognition. Most are not affluent. This generation tends to:
- Want to do meaningful work that makes a difference in the world
- Value information technology
- Have big goals for the future