Civil War Between the Generations

Last week, a group of AENC CEO’s and other invited staff were treated to a conversation around the generational issues in today’s associations. The session, led by Billy Warden (X-er) and Greg Behr (Millennial), was an interesting look at the challenges associations are facing within the generations.

We first took time to explore the differences between the generations.

Traditional Generation members (born between 1922–1945) tend to:
• believe in conformity, authority and rules
• have a very defined sense of right and wrong
• be loyal, disciplined, logical, detail-oriented
• view an understanding of history as a way to plan for the future
• dislike conflict
• seek out technological advancements
• prefer hierarchical organizational structures

Baby boomers (born between 1946-1964) are drawn to:
• long hours at the office, including evenings and weekends
• building their career over the long term and loyalty to their employer
• viewing themselves and their career as one and the same
• commitment to quality and doing a good job
• “hanging tough” through difficult work situations and policies
• finding solutions to problems
• being in charge and respecting authority

Generation X (born between 1965-1980) tend to:
• prefer high-quality end results over quantity
• set and meet goals and are very productive
• multitask
• balance work and life; like flexible working hours, job sharing
• see themselves as free agents and marketable commodities
• be comfortable with authority but not impressed with titles
• be technically competent
• value ethnic diversity
• love independence

Millennial (born between 1981-1994) tend to prefer:
• effecting change and making an impact
• expressing themselves rather than defining themselves through work
• multitasking all the time
• active involvement
• flexibility in work hours and appearance; a relaxed work environment
• teamwork
• on-the-job training
• getting everything immediately
• a balance of work and life

So, as you can see here, there are many differences. For associations (both members and staff), the big divide between the generations is not only value based, but also technology.

For example, many say that Millennials overuse email, however, they look at is if they can get more done. However, when dealing with older members (staff), they like go get a phone call and don’t appreciate the email contact as much. Its a balance.

Many organizations have almost written off the younger generations joining associations. And in some cases that’s true. The only reason they have written off is because they feel the organization has written them off. Gen-X and Millennials want to change the world. They have a lot of grassroots sensibility and just need to be empowered. However, if you look around the table at many organizations and their boards appear as a group of elder statesmen or the 65 year-old Boy Scout. One one attendee described some boards more bluntly as being mostly pale, male and stale.

So, how can you make your organization be a place where the briefcases can get along with the backpacks? Or the wing-tips can co-mingle with the flip-flops?

Well, as said earlier, too many times the voice making the decision is out of touch. Associations and their boards have got bridge the generation gap and you must help your boards realize how much each generation needs each other. Whether its empowering your younger members through a project or their own committee, allowing them a seat at the table or encourage reverse mentoring where boomers learn to tweet and they teach the millenials how to advance their careers.

Thank you again to Billy and Greg with GBW Strategies for leading a great conversation on the generations. Also, check out the white paper they wrote titled – America’s New Civil War.

Stay tuned for more programs from AENC that will help you bridge the gap!