From Frugal to Google

February 3, 2010 06:00 PM

Every parent experiences moments when they wonder whose child they are raising—surely he or she is not my child? Indeed, at times it seems the next generation is from a different planet.

Across agriculture, the baby boomer generation, ages 45 to 64, is grappling with transitioning farm operations to their offspring—who may be Gen Xers or Millennials (also known as Generation Y). Some operations may already have a Gen X offspring in management and a Millennial offspring coming back to farm.

Parents and managers who attempt to learn what drives the next generations' behaviors are better able to communicate, motivate and successfully integrate their operations, says Jackie Ferguson, a human resources coach.

"Each generation sees the world quite differently because of their experiences as youths,” Ferguson says. Understanding each generation's distinctive formative years and, therefore, their core values, allows managers to connect more easily; recruit and motivate better; and avoid conflicts, she adds.

Gen X (Born 1965-1979). A significant difference between Boomers and Gen Xers is that money is a satisfier, not a motivator, says Sidney Cook, a clinical psychologist with Personnel Decisions International.

"The No. 1 reason the younger generations leave their job is their boss,” Cook explains. They are more apt to stay if their manager is involved in their career and serves as more of a coach or mentor than a boss.

"Members of Generation X work to live, not live to work,” Cook adds. They see themselves as masters of their own destiny; they are media-savvy, they want flexibility in their jobs and they want Boomers to step aside.

More generally, loyalty is less important to Gen Xers; they lean toward pragmatism and less toward party affiliation. They tend to challenge things.

Gen Xers want a chance to show what they can do; to be treated equally and fairly. They want a fun, informal work environment with flexible hours, fewer rules, good benefits, career development opportunities and cutting-edge technology. They want flexible retirement plans because they recognize they will have to take care of themselves.

Millennials or Gen Y (Born 1977 to 1994). Generation Y, by comparison, received stuff instead of time from parents. They have very high and often unrealistic expectations.

"As kids, many Gen Yers got trophies for participating in sports—not for winning. In the workplace, that may not be the case, leading to a rude awakening,” Cook explains. They have been primed for success, she says, but the transition after college may be tough.

Children of a Y generation are more willing to accept authority than the Gen Xers, but they are not really compliant, she says. Corporate structure and definitions don't work for them. They may want to negotiate job duties. "They are results oriented, not process oriented,” Cook says. "Gen Yers say, ‘as long as I get the job done, what do you care how long it takes me or when I work on it?'”

Another aspect managers need to realize is that work and personal communications merge for the Y generation. "Efforts to stop them from reading personal e-mail and texting are not really successful,” Cook cautions. 

Gen Yers want a coach, not a manager; they want to work as part of a team of bright, capable people; focus on results, not process. They have a desire for development and, at the same time, respect.

Top Producer, February 2010

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