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Are you prepared for the generation gap?

If your teams aren’t convinced of the validity of the change you are proposing and don’t clearly understand its objectives, your business transformation will never succeed. But are you addressing this by tailoring your message to the age of your employees?

There are two sides to every coin

A colleague recently told me that she had been working on the roll-out of a new technological solution. This development was not perceived in the same way by “senior” employees and newer employees. The seniors, who were often older, were much more difficult to convince of the relevance of giving up a technology they knew by heart for one that was much more efficient and user-friendly—the famous “What's in it for me” approach. Younger employees much less seniority were happy to drop a technology they considered obsolete. How do you deal with that?!

Did I hear you say “diverse”?

Regardless of its size, scope or importance, if you wish to explain—“sell” —a change and convince people of its relevance, you must tailor your message to your audience.

You wouldn’t talk to executives and managers the way you talk to employees, the IT department the way you talk to human resources, or newhires the way you talk to senior employees. But beyond seniority, responsibilities, gender and qualifications, there is another factor you mustn’t ignore: age.

There’s change…and then there’s change

Our society is undergoing changes that are so dramatic and numerous that they have a profound impact on our way of life and our formative experiences. Change is certainly not new, but you must admit that the Internet and social media and the mobility they bring have a vastly different impact on our lives than the arrival of microwaves, colour TV and Tupperware.

The ABCs of X, Y, Z…

It is therefore essential to tailor your message in terms of not only its content but its form, in order to convince your audience, to be heard, and even more to the point, to be understood. Each generation, each age group (baby boomers, X, Y, Z, Alpha, etc.), has unique characteristics and its own way of reacting to transformations. It is important to be aware of this, because the way your employees react to the way changes are presented (adopt, resist or even reject) will depend on their age.

  • Baby-Boomers = 1946 to 1964*
  • X = 1965 to 1980
  • Y or millennials = 1980 to 2000
  • Z = 2000 to …
  • Alpha = 2010 to …

A win-win…. win

By adapting to the different generations within your audience, you will win on all fronts and everyone will benefit:

  • management, as this will save them from managing potential future crises; 
  • your management team, who will be more effective in supporting their employees through change; 
  • your employees, who will feel involved, heard and respected; 
  • your transformation project, which the bulk of your employees will understand and adopt;
  • your company, which will become a benchmark, making it more attractive to future employees. 

What and how?

There are easy solutions:

  • Make sure to consult all age groups during your meetings.
  • Interact with people who have recently joined the company as well as with the “senior” employees. 
  • Pair seniors together with newer employees on certain projects. 
  • Make sure that expertise and information—of those who are about to retire, for instance—is transferred so it’s not lost.

Natalie Hubert
Director and lead consultant

*The dates can vary by a few years.

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