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Bridging the Gap – Seamless Workplace Productivity Across Generations – Part 1


Today’s podcast showcases some of our best thought leaders from every generation in the workplace to discuss how generations connect.  Joining us today is Ken and Margie Blanchard, Karen Medsker, Eric Kaufmann, Anthony Garcia, and Jasmine Doctolero.  Part 1 of our 3-part series introduces you to each of the generations currently represented in the workplace and how the diversity impacts all of us.  Ken Blanchard states it simply from something his mom would say, there is a “pearl of goodness in everybody.”  Join us for an interesting discussion with five generations and their thoughts of how we move forward together.

Host – Steven Maggi: Is your organization looking to forge a generation alliance to deal with the world of 21st-century business? You’ve come to the right place. Welcome to “Bridging the Gen Gap – Seamlessly Blending Workplace Productivity Across Generations.” Boy, do we have an incredible panel to discuss all this today. What we’re going to do on here basically is identify the benefits for generations working together and possible challenges, and maybe even identify design criteria to add to your training programs to ensure multi-generation audiences, all benefiting from learning.

So, as I say, we have an all-star panel, and let’s start out with our first generation, the G.I. generation, which is defined as 1925 to 1945, and boy, do we have some names here. Ken and Marjorie Blanchard are with us. That’s right, they are the cofounders of the Ken Blanchard Companies, both world-renowned motivational speakers and management consultants. They are very prolific, have written over 60 books, including The One Minute Manager that everybody’s read; it sold over 15 million copies.

Well Ken, let’s start with you. You’ve seen the growth of new generations coming along throughout your career. Has that been something that’s been an adjustment in your career all the way through as the years go on? 

Ken Blanchard: I don’t think so, you know, we were just looking at our company. We had to downsize some, but we still got 225 people. We have a pretty good mix of the generations and we’ve tried to keep it that way. I think my mother used to say to me, “Don’t you act like you’re better than anybody else, but don’t let anybody else act like they’re better than you. God didn’t make any junk. There’s a pearl of goodness in everybody.” So, I’ve never been uptight about what generation people are. I want to get to know them and what they’re thinking and how we can help each other. 

Steven: Now Marjorie, the fact that you guys are always out speaking to people and meeting new people all the time, does that kind of help you? Because these generations – you’re seeing them firsthand right there and you’re kind of getting the idea just by working with them from that perspective of how everybody understands everybody else. 

Marjorie Blanchard: I think basically people are the same. I do think there have been some changes just in the way we prefer to communicate. We’ve got kids ourselves and if I send them a text, they’ll probably answer it, but if I send them an e-mail, it might be a couple days. The biggest change for me is my comfort with technology. I really – I say to myself I was just born a little bit too early for these people that absolutely have no trouble at all just moving around in this technology space. We’ve had a few of our senior consultants decide that they don’t want to make that huge transition to teaching digitally, and they’ve retired. But then we’ve got some other just marvelous people who have made the transition and are doing a great job, and we’ve got new people as well. So, technology is one of the biggest things I think we have to be realistic about. 

Steven: We’ll come back and talk a little about that because I find that fascinating. I know just as the years go on for myself, suddenly stuff that I just jumped at – eh, I’d rather not bother.

Let’s go on and let’s introduce Karen Medsker. She is representing the baby boomers from the years of 1946 to ‘64. Karen is the President and Principal Consultant of Human Performance Systems, Inc., been in the business over 40 years. I find it interesting Karen; you’re still working with some of these former students – because you’re also a professor – your graduate students and even their offspring. Do you find that – you know, you say your professional circle is really intergenerational – has that been a help throughout your career? Has that kind of kept you ahead of the game by being so tight with these different generations as they come along? 

Karen Medsker: It has indeed. As a professor, I had some fairly young students – some in their 20s and on up the ladder, some second career people in their 40s and even 50s – and recently, I’ve had a stent for two years of living with my millennial daughter and my two Gen Z granddaughters. Being associated with all of these young people has forced me, more or less kicking and screaming, to keep up with some of the latest trends. 

Steven: What happens in your private life is going to eventually get into the business life, right? I mean, these things are not totally separate and some of the same tools that your family uses are going to be used in the workplace. 

Karen: Yes, and I’ve been working for ExxonMobil as a training designer for over 20 years, and as that 20 years passed, we went from people attending a three-day in-person course to everything being e-learning, and some of the young people being hired wanting those trainings to be shorter and shorter and punchier and more entertaining. So, I’ve had to keep up with the learner population. 

Steven: Well, let’s move now to Generation X and that’s 1965 to 1980. With us is Eric Kaufmann, the president of Sagatica, and really interesting – you should go to his website – because the way he describes his business is in 20 years, he prides himself and his company by tapping untapped potential in the C-suite. Eric, I just have to ask you, is part of that being able to adjust to these things? Because you being in the middle – you’re dealing with generations that came before you and generations that have come after. 

Eric Kaufmann: Steven, yeah, thanks for that great question, and actually, it’s not just professional, right? So, my folks are in their 80s and my daughters are 18 and 20, and so some of the – I think, Karen, what you just mentioned in terms of living in that range – seeing it in the workplace, I think you know the miracle of – miracle might be too strong – but sort of the great privilege of science and medicine, people are living longer and healthier lives with more ability to be contributing and creative. So, there’s a big range of – obviously, this is why this program is on. So, from a C-suite perspective though, it starts to get a little bit like – I love, Ken, the way you described your mom and how she said that nobody’s broken, everyone’s a pearl and something to that effect, right? When we’re looking at the C-suite, there’s sets of challenges and requirements that don’t leave a lot of room for age, right? Or preference. You know, there’s certain ways you want to show up to serve your people. There are certain ways you have to show up to be able to think strategically, and there are responsibilities and pressures that tend to transcend age. So, it is interesting – there’s something real, right? There’s something real about the cultural influences that effected people over time – so, if you grew up in the 60s or 70s or the 80s – but underneath it all, it’s human beings making decisions and working with other humans. That’s at the heart of it. 

Steven: That’s a great lead-in to Anthony Garcia. He works in eLearning and VR development at Epsilon Systems Solutions. He’s representing the millennials, ‘81 to ‘96. Anthony, you had said that part of working with different generations is not over-emphasizing that age difference, and yet you work with VR, which is kind of scary. I mean, we were talking about some of the stuff from before, like what the Blanchards were saying was some people are like, “Wait, I don’t want to get near it!” Well, when you think of VR, just the thought of it’s kind of scary. But is that your attitude, Anthony, is to go out there and to try to not buy into that and to just try to simplify it to them so they don’t get scared from it? How does that work? 

Anthony Garcia: Yeah, great question, Steven. Kind of what we talked about before is that it really comes down to being patient with each other when introducing different types of technology or even different ideas. I don’t even think that just applies to different generations – kind of what we’re talking about now – but just to people from different backgrounds in general, just because we have so much diversity in the world and our nation right now that you are meeting people from all different types of backgrounds. They all have different exposure to media and then even the way that they live their lives are very different. So, having that patience to kind of go through those different things and new ideas is really crucial. 

Steven: “Patience” is a great phrase that we’re gonna probably say a number of times in this conversation. But, as we go to our last generation – Generation Z, which is 1997 to 2015, 6 to 24-years-old – we have Jasmine Doctolero, eLearning and VR developer also at Epsilon Systems Solutions. And now, she’s been in the business for a year and a half or so, but I got to wonder, Jasmine, as you hear all of this and so forth – we talked about patience – is it hard to identify with these generations ahead of you, the fact that they didn’t just grow up with this the way you did? Or is it something again – kind of like what Anthony was saying – where you just got to have patience and just assume that everybody can get this stuff? 

Jasmine Doctolero: Yeah, so pinging off of Anthony, being at home – my parents, they didn’t really grow up with all of these technologies, and they are the ones usually calling out to me and my brother to help them on Zoom conferences and all of these new technologies that they’re not familiar with. Being able to be there – an assistor and teacher – it’s really comforting to know that anyone can learn how to use these technologies. So, like Anthony said, patience is definitely a key in this. 

Steven: Well Ken, as you hear all this stuff, and of course you’ve written the book – you and Marjorie have written the book and many books. I know when we talked before this conversation, you had mentioned that in your family, you are doing this – these people are coming in and yet this mix is going on there. When you hear this, does this all make sense? Is it just a process that will continue as the years go on? 

Ken: Yeah, I think so. I think that technology is going to keep on getting better. I mean, who could’ve ever thunk that we could do the stuff that we’re doing now. I just couldn’t believe that I could be sitting in my office and doing a session for a whole bunch of people in India the other day. So, I mean, duh. But I’m anxious to learn. I heard other people, I’m kind of learning how to do some of the stuff myself, not just be helped. It’s a journey, but I’m excited about it. 

Steven: Eric, as you talked about the C-suite when you were chatting before, this is one of those things I would imagine that if you’re going to be good in the C-suite, regardless of where you fit in this generational side, you’ve got to have access to these people and it’s not a matter of you sitting in one of those offices knowing how to do it, but knowing how to get it done. Is that kind of what you look for when you’re helping companies do this? And also, as we’re serving very diverse clients, we want to know from all different directions – from the senior side on down to the youngest side – kind of how these people think, and it seems like we’re a little more segmented today in the way we think than we were 20, 30, 40 years ago. Is that something for the 21st-century C -suite or am I off target? 

Eric: The point that you’re making about we are more segmented, I think that – so, I’ve lived in four different countries – and I grew up in a multinational family. My daughter is right now studying in the Netherlands, and so I’ve been exposed to lots of different cultures and lots of different ways of being. I’ve noticed that people have traditionally been somewhat isolated. I would say that while there is a perception that we’re more isolated, in fact relative to 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 100 years ago – there’s a more distributed awareness among people of different cultures. I think that it’s convenient to say that we’re more isolated in the way we are – of course, we are pushed and pulled into very narrow channels of social media that only confirm and affirm biases – and having said all that, there’s far more opportunity to rub shoulders with people of different generations of different cultures. I’ve spent the last year just like the rest of us, right? In my office at home. I gave up my office in my commercial office and I’ve just learned working from home, but quite frankly, on Zoom I’ve met amazing human beings all around the globe and I’m not the only one. So, while technology can be isolating, it is also remarkably liberating and I don’t think we should forget that the point of technology is to facilitate human function, human behavior, not just how people think but how people feel. When we get caught up about technology as being a barrier, humans have always used technology to accelerate and improve their ability to do things, right? But we’re having to catch up with doing things in different ways. I think that a CEO, an executive, a leader, a supervisor, a mom, a human being that doesn’t know how to reach people – not just how they think, but how they feel – and relate, not just in terms of cognitive ideas, but in terms of meaningful human connection. People who can’t do that will suffer a real limitation in their ability to influence, to lead and to actually have meaningful lives. Whatever we can do with technology to connect, I think that’s the magic. 

Steven: Well, speaking of magic, Anthony, that must make you smile, because I’m thinking with VR – and you’re kind of on the forefront of this – this is exactly what you want to let everybody know is that we can do more and more things with virtual reality. It eliminates – not completely – but it eliminates a lot of the travel we talked about, and it’s kind of like what Ken was saying before, where you can do something in India the same day from here in the United States. So, is that something you try to push when you talk about VR, Anthony? 

Anthony: It is definitely one of the bigger aspects that we talk about when talking to people about using VR for training and educational purposes and things like that, where it kind of broadens your scope or your client base and kind of the type of trainings that they’re able to partake in, and of course, a lot of people may think that VR training or other type of simulation trainings are there to replace different types of training – whether it’s instructor-led training or in-classroom training – but it’s really there to supplement those trainings. It kind of provides an environment for certain situations that you can’t really replicate inside the real world safely. So, it is exciting to hear Eric talk about those types of things and how it kind of broadens that scope and that accessibility to everybody. 

Steven: Jasmine, you’re working with VR development as well. When you work with Anthony and so forth, is this an opportunity where working with multi-generations is really helpful? Because you get the technology and so forth, but you kind of want to find out what those fears are and what the benefits are – specifically to these other generations – so you can help them transition into that. 

Jasmine: 100%. I think it’s important to be open to new technologies and to supplement them; that way, you have a wider range, I guess.