Two generations are colliding in today’s world of work, and that can result in some tension and awkward times. We’ve all experienced it. With a battle of the generations upon us, it’s up to communicators to be the bridge that brings their organizations closer together.
Communications professionals from around the world travel to the IABC World Conference each year to learn best practices, trends, and tactics that will help them do their jobs better – you know, the standard stuff. But what really separates a good conference experience from a great one is being able to walk away with a new perspective on work.
The great debate
I attended the opening keynote led by globally-renowned speaker and thought leader, Seth Mattison. Often touted as the “Voice of the Millennials,” Seth addressed hundreds of communicators who were eager to be inspired and learn something new.
I’ve always found the whole generation conversation to be a bit of an uncomfortable topic, so I was curious to hear how Seth (who appeared to be a millennial himself) would tackle it. He started off easy with a visual comparison of the two generations that make up today’s workforce:
- World #1: Gen X
This group has always viewed the workplace as a hierarchical structure with a set of unwritten rules. Think: traditional org chart, with a top, a bottom, and clear reporting relationships. They gather knowledge, follow processes, and put in their time to work their way to the top.
- World #2: Gen Y (or Millennials)
This group is governed by an entirely different set of unwritten rules. Not better or worse, just totally different. As a result of the era they grew up in, they see the world as a network or “interconnected web of people, ideas, and information.” Think: the internet. It’s not surprising that their way of thinking can often be seen as chaotic or disruptive.
His explanation was simple enough, and it set the stage for the proverbial bomb that Seth was about to drop on us: These two worlds are colliding head-on and it’s up to us, as communicators, to make sense of it all.
Wait, what? Tell us more.
Ask yourself, is this way of thinking serving you?
So, what happens when these two worlds collide? Seth explained that World #2 represents a new way of working that World #1 is not used to (or comfortable with). And when each world aligns to a different structure and a different set of rules, there’s bound to be some tension.
Seth acknowledged that some members of Generation X have a hard time accepting millennials and their disruptive ways – “Who do they think they are?”
I saw nods and of agreement around the room. That’s when he paused and asked, “Is this way of thinking serving you?” I could almost feel the room collectively squirm in their seats. “Why not open your minds up to new ideas, no matter who they come from? What are you risking when you don’t?” He challenged the audience to focus instead on the opportunity that we, as communicators, have been presented with: to be the bridge that brings these two worlds together.
Start by shifting mindset
Communicators often look to technology to help them get a handle on things. They need a social collaboration platform to create change... and fast. But, Seth would challenge this order of operations. He believes there are actually four levers of change inside an organization, and technology is last on the list.
Seth’s 4 levers to change: Mindset, Culture, Process, Technology
Seth believes that before we jump to technology, we must first start to shift the organizational mindset. How? By starting to challenge the unwritten rules that drive your employees’ attitudes and behaviors. Ask yourself, what’s one rule you want the organization to let go of? What’s holding you back? For example, are your executives opposed to sharing updates with the company, or is it just their default mode not to?
Only after you’ve challenged the unwritten rules can you really start to shape a new company culture and create new processes that everyone can get behind. For the hesitant executives in the example above, you start by creating a leadership blog on your intranet where they feel comfortable sharing regular updates (and see the value in doing so).
When you get to the technology step, there will still be some work to do to manage the knowledge gaps. The generation that grew up with the internet is naturally adept to using technology to get stuff done. Other generations, on the other hand, might not be.
A modern intranet for a modern workforce
For communicators, intranets represent a “tidying up” of knowledge and information accumulated over the years – with a greater goal of creating a clear path forward. If you think about it in Seth’s terms, intranets can provide clarity around the various networks inside an organization, which gives both worlds one destination to produce and consume information.
As a modern intranet provider, we can’t stress enough the importance of choosing a solution that’s easy to configure and intuitive for all your users. When you’re ready, give us a shout. One of our intranet experts will help you discover how a modern intranet can help you create meaningful connections between people of all generations in your organization.
Want to learn more about modern intranets? Visit our conference micro-site to download our latest guides, Calling All Champions and A Modern Intranet Defined.