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Opinion In Market: Talkin’ ‘Bout Our Generations

In Market: Talkin’ ‘Bout Our Generations

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Fort Worth Business Press Business for Breakfast

Developing Millennial Leaders: Empowering Your Company’s Next Generation

Platinum Sponsors: North Texas Community Foundation, Plaid for Women

Spotlight Sponsor: WhitneySmith Co.


Tom Buxton, Buxton Co.

Kevin Grace, Rising Tide Initiative

Steve Peglar, WhitneySmith Co.

Holland Sanders, HOLLAND Collective

I moderated the panel discussion at our Business for Breakfast event on June 21. It was hardly a challenge as the panel was sharp, smart and articulate. Basically, I just stayed out the hell out of the way. Here are some excerpts. Look for more in our next CEO magazine later this year.

Challenges of working with generations:

Grace: I’m the founder and CEO of Agile Management Enterprises. We focus on technology investments and helping startups succeed. We work with mature business and early-state businesses. Within those companies, there are many different generations, so quite a bit of communication challenges in terms of what’s the best way to communicate. We use tools like Slack, email, text message. What we find is we have to find the right fit for each person on the team, and sometimes that can be a challenge.

Millennials and technology:

Buxton: We go from a baby boomer my age to people that are right out of college working for our company. We look at the lifestyles. I’ve actually seen exactly what they were saying. There’s a lot more technology maybe involved in that generation, but I think millennials, it’s not a much higher level, but they’re very good and loyal and intelligent.

Communication skills:

Sanders: One of the biggest differences, I think, in the communication is obviously the use of technology, which maybe you and I can bridge between those two, but the idea that millennials have grown up, basically, with phones in their hands and being in front of computers, and the idea of constantly interacting and feeling comfortable with that on the whole. …

You very quickly rattled off some [ways of communicating] that a lot of baby boomers … [would rather] sit down and have a meeting and talk through it, this idea of having to hash through it in person. I find I would rather just have a quick response. Send me a text. Do whatever it is. Let’s get on it.

Work flexibility:

Sanders: I find that oftentimes when people talk about millennials, they talk about this idea of flexibility being a problem. Let’s talk about communication for flexibility. The 9-to-5 no longer exists for millennials. We don’t live in a 9-to-5. I have my phone on me at all times. I have clients that text me at 1:30 in the morning, and I have no problem responding then. A text message is fine with me. An email is fine with me. As long as it’s something technology-driven that I feel good responding, I’m constantly on. So, yes, I want the flexibility in my workplace, but I also want the ability to have that technology so that my communication is ongoing, 24/7.

Differences and similarities:

Peglar: At the end of the day, personality differences, really, you can’t break it down by generation. People are people. You can take a group of baby boomers, a group from Generation X, and a group of millennials and do workplace profiles, personality profiles on all those, and you’d have the same distribution of personality types.

At the end of the day, my point here is a baby boomer and a millennial can share the same type of personality. In other words, and this translates to communication, in that you might have somebody that’s a baby boomer that’s an introvert and a millennial that’s an introvert. The millennial is going to have better communication ability through the technology, because it sort of circumvents that inherent introversion, which is a personality trait. At the end of the day, you really have to look at the individual. I think that’s just really important for everybody to remember. Everybody’s motivated by something different, every individual. You’ve got to keep them motivated by money, you’ve got to keep them motivated by flexibility in the workplace, you’ve got to keep people motivated by job security. There’s something that motivated every individual that may be different, so we really need to focus on that, that on the topic of communication, yes, there are some things that you may notice generationally different, but it’s probably something else other than that person’s individual personality.

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