The Generation Gaps

Clark County recently had 67 managers attend a two-hour session on generational differences.

Steve Hanamura of Hanamura Consulting in Beaverton, Ore., explained how Veterans (pre-Boomers), Boomers (born between 1945 and 1960), Generation Xers (1960-1980) and Gen. Yers (1980 – present; also known as Millennials) have different needs in the workplace.

Clark County County Administrator Bill Barron said it was a valuable lesson and it reinforced what he has observed from working with the Board of County Commissioners.

The board has a Veteran (Tom Mielke, who turns 69 on Wednesday), a Boomer (Marc Boldt, age 56) and a Gen. Xer (Steve Stuart, age 39).

For Veterans, loyalty and recognition are important, Hanamura said. Barron, 66, and Mielke are from the same generation, and Barron said they have a shared background with their military service (Air Force for Barron, Army for Mielke).
They did not grow up with technology, so they could take longer to learn it. They tend to be cautious and careful, so take more time with change, Hanamura advised.

Boomers like to feel a connection, Hanamura said. Relationships and results go hand-in-hand for this group. That’s true for Boldt, Barron said, who is the first commissioner to speak up on social issues and express concern for people in need. “He thinks with his heart,” Barron said.
Boomers were instrumental in creating the goals and policies of the organization, so make sure your message aligns with the organization’s vision and values, Hanamura said.

Gen Xers want things to be precise and to the point, Hanamura said. Be straightforward with language. They tend to distrust organization-speak and acronyms. That explains why Stuart will interrupt a county employee to say he doesn’t want to hear all the reasons something might not be able to be done. During endless meetings on the massive rewrite of county codes, Stuart’s catchphrase has been “better, faster, cheaper.” (As in, make regulations less of a burden.) Stuart is also technologically savvy, Barron said, and prefers to receive communications via e-mail.

As for Millenials, they like to be around positive, optimistic people, Hanamura said. Millennials expect fairness and ethical behavior.

If one of my editors is reading this, please keep in mind I’m a Gen Xer. Hanamura said I need flexibility on how to do my job.

Tell them what to do and then get out of their way and let them do it, he said.

Hey, those are his words. Not mine.

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