In my last blog I talked about the prevailing issue in our modern workforce of the lack of interpersonal communication skills among emerging professionals or millennial talent. As a continuation of that conversation I want to discuss how we overcome this challenge to make the most out of our interpersonal communications and subsequently reap the benefits of our next generation of leaders. There are a few different ways we can approach this, in my opinion.

One, stop referring to everyone as “them” and “us”. The shifts from one generation to the next are oftentimes drastic enough to warrant changing the conversation and certainly seeing them as different entities. That is part of the problem though, if we keep thinking that we need to treat people differently because of their generational attributes it is just furthering the stereotype. I’m not saying that we do not need to adjust our approach over time to get results more effectively. I think this is critical to evolving as we grow in our roles or as organizations. But those changes should be applied as universally as possible blending the new and the old ways. Treating millennials completely different than baby boomers for example, while in some cases seems warranted, may not always have the positive effect that you hope for.

Two, look for opportunities to leverage the learnings and skills of varying age groups in a team-based setting. I mentioned this briefly in the last blog, it is important to leverage the skills and capabilities of different generations by pairing them together to learn from one another. Encouraging team members of varying backgrounds and ages to work together collaboratively on a project for example is a good way to ensure they put their most effort in and find ways to show their talents. Team-building activities can also be helpful in getting people to work together in new and fun ways outside of the office.

Three, why not institute a mentor program?! When you encounter a successful business at any size you often look to the existing senior leaders to understand how that success was produced. Not enough organizations spend the time to develop a thorough succession plan with their senior leaders - and so much of that tribal knowledge exits along with those individuals when they retire. A well-organized and meaningful mentor program can help with that knowledge transfer in real world situations, when developed properly and executed well.

Finally, and this one is not a new technique…. Treat everyone with respect and hear them out. Whether they have a multi-decade tenure within the organization and know everything about everything or are fresh out of college looking to change the world with their bare hands, everyone should be given a chance to present their ideas. The desire to contribute to an organization on a project basis or in a much bigger setting is something that should not be discounted. That senior resource brings with them the element of lessons learned, sometimes multiple times over, and can educate others on what has not succeeded historically. The fresh perspective newcomer offers a different approach that perhaps has not been considered, that likely leverages some of the amazing things that make them a part of a history-altering generation.
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Jennifer Ulrich

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