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Wyoming Business Tips for July 19-25

July 2, 2015

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Susan Jerke, WSBDC regional director

“I employ many different age groups in my business. How can I help them all work together?” Angie, Sundance

Generational differences in the workplace offer special challenges and opportunities. By analyzing the characteristics, you will gain a better understanding of multiple generations and how to ease the friction.

There is really nothing new about working with a variety of age groups, but leaders in the modern workplace must provide a period of adaptation for the entire team to understand communication styles, cultural expectations and stereotypes.

There are four generations, with a fifth generation joining the workforce within the next four to five years. As work-life expectancy expands, we will see more people still employed at age 75. The generations are generally categorized into the following: Millennials (1977-1997), Gen X (1965-1976), Baby Boomers (1943-1964) and Traditionalists (1930-1942).

We have heard how generational differences can divide a workplace, but how can you use the combined talents to unite and move your company forward? First, put to rest the stereotypes that “older” workers do not “get technology” and that the emerging employees are not dedicated to their work.

I took part in a Franklin Covey workshop on generational issues a couple of years ago that incorporated a role-playing game into the session. Each participant assumed the role of a worker who was in a generation other than his or her own, and answered questions from the perceived perspectives of that generation. Then, the entire group came back together to discuss how the members felt about their roles, and the barriers began to fall as they viewed one another through a new lens of understanding.

The key for owners and managers is to open those lines of communication to develop a culture that invites everyone to participate in the process. Provide feedback loops, foster a sense of trust and transparency, and call on all members of the team to contribute their talents to increase momentum of the entire organization.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments are available at http://wyen.biz/blog1/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email wsbdc@uwyo.edu, or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.


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