Are You Networking across Generations?
The generational mix of the workforce is projected to shift dramatically by 2030. Baby Boomers are retiring from (or being pushed out of) the workforce at higher rates. The first Generation Z professionals have already graduated from college — albeit via Zoom — and are starting their entry-level jobs — also via Zoom. Gen X workers are still angling for promotions, hoping their bosses retire before they do. All the while, many leaders are still wringing their hands about Millennials and their expectations of employers.
But it’s not just executives who need to be thinking about these generational shifts. All of us have a role to play. It’s up to each of us to create the kind of workplace that welcomes everyone. Whether you are an executive, a middle manager, a leader, or an individual contributor, your daily interactions with others determine the culture of your organization. Start by considering where (and with whom) those interactions occur, using my CHAMP Network model.
Are you meeting with customers? Even if your role is internal to the company, find a way to connect with customers from “the outside.” Ride along with sales reps or job shadow customer support staff. Notice how the customer mix is changing for your company. Ask yourself how you can build a network of customers that span generations.
Who have you hired or helped with a job search recently? When someone in your network posts an open position, ask about the skills or experiences that might make someone a perfect fit for the role. If you know someone is looking for a job, inquire about their ideal work environment. You’ll begin to see trends in how people from different generations answer these questions. This information will be invaluable to you if you find yourself looking for a new employee (or a new job).
Are you building solid peer relationships at work? Make time to chat with and learn about people you may not have connected with in the past. How do people of different generations view your company or your industry? Find out how they came into this work and what they love about it. You’ll be surprised by the different expectations and assumptions each generation makes — or doesn’t — about your workplace.
Think about your mentors. Where do you go for career advice? Whose books, podcasts, and social media feeds do you rely on? Think for a moment about whether those mentors are concentrated in a single age group. You might be missing out on future trends, sage wisdom, or pressing issues if your mentors don’t span generations.
Finally, take the time to invest in others. By sharing what you know, you can help others learn a new technology, think about a problem from a new perspective, or build stronger working relationships with others. The mentoring relationship is not always based on age or experience. Knowledge and perspective also matter. Give freely, and reach broadly.
The workforce around you is changing. Having a robust, inclusive professional network that spans generations can help you prepare for those changes. Set a modest networking goal to get started. And please, let me know in the comments how your network is changing!