VFA Virginia Forests Winter 2023

10 VIRGINIA FORESTS remote working, shortages of qualified candidates, free-agent entrepreneurship, supply-chain chaos, and inflation. These current events have exasperated the problem exponentially and made simple generational irritations seem quaint and nostalgic by comparison. Nevertheless, working with the newest generations of employees starts with a basic understanding and respect for their differences, and how they came to be. By and large, generations are cohort groups of people born in roughly the same timespan where the people in those groups have shared experiences at an early age. It is these shared early life experiences (including upbringing) that shape commonly held values and preferences, and without significant emotional events, these values and preferences tend to last a lifetime for each generation. People seem to easily agree on the definition, shared values, and key behaviors of the World War II generation because the events that shaped that generation were specific, dramatic, and largely universal across populations. After that cohort group, the generational taxonomy becomes less clear as to which generation is which, between what dates, with what behaviors, and for what reasons. Just Google “generational differences,” and you will see thousands of articles, books, charts, and taxonomies that are frequently updated, often overlapping, and sometimes contradictory, making how-to advice for managing each generation very difficult to prescribe. Nevertheless, highlighted on this page is a brief summary of a meta-analysis from my 20-year speaking topic, Boomers, Geeks, and Geezers. However they are sliced, diced, and labeled, there are definite (albeit less universal) differences between the generations, but there is one overarching pattern in the last three that is highly relevant to managing and leading the newest generations in the workforce. It is this: the workforce of today resembles volunteers, and thinking of them that way will help managers and leaders attract them, keep them, and get the most in return. Here are some ways that today’s workforce resembles true volunteers: 1. They don’t want to waste their time. 2. They don’t have to work for you; they have many options. 3. They don’t have to do what you tell them; they know they can leave and land elsewhere. 4. They don’t expect to work for you for long. 5. They stay if they keep getting what they individually want out of the job. 6. They will stagnate very quickly if they stop gaining new skills and resumé builders. 7. They will constantly be comparing your job to other options. 8. They expect gratitude for spending their time with you. Your understandable objection to all of this is likely to be that your employees are not really volunteers at all, because they are paid and sometimes paid very well to be there, even with sometimes unprecedented benefits and rewards. OK Boomer, here is the deal. You must see this as their choice to be there and their choice about how much effort to volunteer The Greatest Generation (1900–1924) tends to prefer frugality, authority, procedure following, self-sacrifice, civic duty, and no-nonsense workplaces. The Silent Generation (1925–1945) tends to prefer security, conformity, order, nuclear family, and secure work environments that foster a lifetime of loyalty. Baby Boomers (1946–1961) tend to rock the boat, seek self-actualization and personal growth, live-to-work, buy-now-pay-later, change life partners, and get ahead. Generation X (1962–1981) tends to mistrust institutions, keep their options open, collect skills, job hop, and work to have a life on their own terms. Generation Y or Millennials (1982–1994) tend to prefer working in groups and teams, share leadership, expect rapid advancement, see pervasive diversity, and integrate work and life. Generation Z (1995–2012) tends to seek meaningful work, espouse social responsibility, live endemically online, search for recognition, and develop their personal brands.