Whether you're hearing jokes about the office "grandpa" who destroys forests with wanton printing or about "kids" who expect a gold start just for...

By Julie Kampf
President and CEO, JBK Associates, Inc.

Whether you’re hearing jokes about the office “grandpa” who destroys forests with wanton printing or about “kids” who expect a gold start just for showing up, you’re probably already dealing with generational differences.

Managing these differences will soon become more important than ever. Each day about 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age. The generation that follows, Generation X, is smaller by more than 40 percent. Leadership positions increasingly will go to people now in their late teens to early thirties. This millennial generation will step into leadership not only with less experience than previous generations but also with less experience than many subordinates.

The leadership shakeup will happen soon. Even today, the major corporations that work with my firm have no resistance to putting qualified young people in senior-level positions. Within a few years, they’ll have little choice. Millennials will make up more than 40 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2020, and one 2011 study noted that they will make up roughly 75 percent of the world’s workforce by 2025. No wonder half of more than 1,200 CEOs in a 2012 global survey from PriceWaterhouse Coopers said they’re concerned about attracting this generation that simply doesn’t stay with companies long enough. No wonder the first response among the generations is often fear and reluctance to work with people who see things differently.

Some companies have launched initiatives from generational affinity groups to unlimited paid vacation in an effort to attract and retain millennial workers. Communication needs to change, and simple steps like restructuring staff meetings or using instant messaging can help older managers make the most of their millennial talent.

Even small steps matter. In our firm, millennial teams have expanded our social media platform, established new uses for technology, launched philanthropic projects, and found many ways to improve the office environment.

The Boston College Center for Work and Family reports that the millennial generation will tend to bring eight qualities to leadership: active attention, transparency, relevancy for others, relevancy for one’s self, passion, accountable leadership, autonomy through flexibility, and self-care as a reflection of organizational health. This sounds like a generation that can help us all make the most of our strengths.

That’s why I believe that productivity will soar for organizations that embrace and manage generational differences. And, if your office is like ours, working together might even be fun.

Julie Kampf is president and CEO of JBK Associates. Kampf has much experience in the field of consulting on recruitment and retainment in the workforce.

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