Fill in the Gaps

Tue,Jun 22,2010 @ 01:03 PM

Throughout most of our blogs, we have discussed the importance of learning reinforcement. It important to know as much information about your product as you can, and it is equally as important to learn new techniques that are arising in the sales world. We have always stressed that you should constantly be learning, and it has become apparent that this old adage is necessary as more and more younger generations come into the workplace.

We all know by now that there are four generations working side by side in most businesses, but what does that mean from a learning standpoint?

Generational Learning Requirements

As a society, we have slowly progressed into an era where technology is starting to become the forefront of most industries, and as this transition is happening, generation X and generation Y are being taught how to successfully harness the tool. Veterans and baby boomers should be given online training because technology is second nature to the younger generations, as professional speaker Garrison Wynn puts it,

“An employee told me this at my company, twenty five years old, ‘Uh Mr. Wynn, the reason your computer crashes is because you’re old…’ But what happens to us? If you’re over forty years old and you’re on the computer going ‘Okay, I’m having a little bit of a problem…[starts banging keyboard]’. You start looking for young people; yes that’s what I do.”

However, older generations are not the only ones that need to be constantly keeping up and learning new trends; the incoming generations should be learning from their fellow veteran and baby boomers. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were not around when they joined the work force, and they had their own successful methods. New generations should take the time to sit down with older generations to learn techniques that go hand-in-hand with their own approach.

Managerial Learning

Managers should recognize that not all of their employees think the same way about work. For example, most baby boomers live to work; whereas, generation Xers work to live. The mentality is not the same, and supervisors should be given business coaching tools to help them adjust their interactions with each generation. When higher-level management is learning how to train and coach their employees, they need to keep in mind a few key characteristics about each generation:

-Have respect for authority
-Believe in discipline
-Communication is one-on-one or written

Baby Boomers
-Willing to go the extra mile
-Want to please
-Work, work, work

Generation X
-Value personal time
-Strive to be in charge
-Want recognition and communication

Generation Y

-Great at technology
-Like to collaborate

Learning about each other

In order to have effective leadership skills, you need to learn how to communicate with the different generations.

For example in her book about the different generations, Lynne Lancaster describes an interaction she, a baby boomer, had with a generation Xer. Lancaster received a voicemail from her younger video producer, and when she listened to it, it went like this, "Uh dude, I'm a little concerned about the middle montage, it's looking radically raw.... Not to worry, we're doin' it digital, we can slice and dice and mix and match, it's gonna look stellar, but hook me with the 411 if you have any questions or I'll just assume you'll call me at three bells." Click. She had no idea what any of it meant and had to go ask her younger business partner what the voicemail meant.



By reinforcing learning, managers and supervisors can help the different generations successfully interact with one another. In order to achieve high performance, everyone has to keep learning not only about the industry and new business practices but also about how to interact and work with each generation.

Do you have a funny or interesting story about a generational difference you’ve experienced? We would love to hear about it, and if you post it below or on our Facebook, you could possibly win 4 free tickets to Summerfest!

Tim Hagen

Written by Tim Hagen

Tim Hagen founded Sales Progress, a Training Reinforcement Partner Company, in 1997. His entrepreneurial career began in college leading to positions in sales, sales management, and sales training for small and large corporations, and eventually ownership of several training companies. He possesses a unique combination of hands-on experience, academics, and innovative insight to solve the industry’s most common challenges. Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in Adult Education and Training from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

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