This podcast is the last of our three-part series on Bridging the Gap – Seamless workplace productivity across generations. In today’s session we talk about how COVID impacted our training programs in 2020 and how differences in generations really are beneficial to how we work. The synergy of the workplace and how employees work together creates the success we hope to achieve. Ken Blanchard recommends we focus on this thought when working with different generations: “We need to have a mindset that none of us is as smart as all of us. All the brains are not in their office – that 1+1 is a lot greater than 2, and how do you utilize and bring in people that have differences and together create something that’s fabulous.” Eric Kaufman says, “There are some differences between generations. You’d have to be a fool not to see some of the differences, but some of it is not generational – it’s just human experience and human dynamics, right?”
Host – Steven Maggi: Well, you know, as we think about all the stuff we’ve talked about today and some takeaways for people that listen, I think one is to avoid labeling generations. I wanted to ask Eric – I know we’ve talked a little and what you said before kind of leads to this generational information that we’re trying to do and how these skill sets are a tool; but they’re not the whole answer to this thing, right? We just have to set up an environment that makes all this flow and not get too caught up with labels.
Eric Kaufmann: I love that you said that. I think that’s really important. For me, you know it’s interesting listening to all of us in this conversation – we’re saying, “Yeah, there’s some differences between generations.” You’d have to be a fool not to see some of the differences, but some of it is not generational; it’s just human experience and human dynamics, right? And so, there is a – sometimes it’s convenient to say, “Oh, that generation! The millennials are all this or the X’s are all this, the boomers are all this.” But that’s a very lazy way of being in life, right? There’s much more nuance, and at the end of the day, we’re still unique, precious human beings. You know, the Greeks in their mythologies had Cronus – like the first Titan and the father of all the gods in Greek mythology. He consumed – he ate his five children because he was afraid that the succeeding generation would overthrow him. And Zeus liberated his siblings from Cronus as god. And then, Zeus himself ate his first wife because she was supposed to give birth to a son, and he didn’t want the son to overthrow him. So, this tension, this awkward shift of power between generations is as old as people are, as old as humanity is. So, I think that it could be a little too convenient to say, “Oh, old people, young people, middle-aged people, whatever” – I think there’s much more power and there’s also much more effort, right? I mean, the reason to have stereotypes – the reason we have biases is because there doesn’t take much effort in our brains to be able to identify something as static. It takes more effort, it takes more consciousness, it takes more intention, it takes more care to look beyond the label and see the human or the team or the situation and free ourselves from the convenience of just labeling somebody as such and such, right? “This person’s a boomer; therefore…” – that’s not gonna really work well in a relationship. It’s going to be a terrible leadership approach. And it’s very ineffective for learning to say all Gen Z’s will work with the computers. They are still humans. You can’t confuse tools or ages for actual capacity.
Steven: I think that’s fascinating. Now you know, I listen to that and Anthony, I think to myself, “You’re a millennial, so you’re on your way up.” Are you thinking that way at all? Do you think, “Well ok, to replace person X, I need to do so-and-so and whatever?” or is that just something that doesn’t even cross your mind when you’re thinking about your future and what you plan to do in the industry?
Anthony Garcia: There’s a few different viewpoints, at least that I hold on that type of stuff too is – kind of going back to something I touched on on a previous question where everybody is different, right? We shouldn’t treat people by their generations because even within a generation, you have people who are exposed to technology and have different lifestyles that create those differences and challenges in trying to figure out what you should be doing, period, whether it’s through training and educational tools or technologies or just what you’re going to do in your career. I don’t think there is a straightforward answer to that one because of that. So, for instance, like my career goals and things like that are very different from my brother who’s in the same generation and even some of my friends that are in the same generation. We’ve kind of taken our different paths based on the difference experiences that we’ve had in life, and I think that even applies to the type of training that we enjoy or look forward to or really crave to take. Some people like videos, other people like reading, and other people like doing the more hands-on interactive simulations – whether it’s a desktop simulation or VR simulation. It’s kind of all over the place, so in relating to training and developing and trying to figure out what to do next, I think you need it all. You need all of those different aspects, kind of like that blended learning – you have all of the different types and modals of training available to everybody at any time.
Steven: Yea, and Jasmine, it makes me think of you because as you’re just on the beginning rung of this, you must be thinking to yourself, “Wow, I’ve got to really stay with lifelong learning because these things change more and more and people are going to be looking at me” and even when the next generation comes along, you’re going to want to be ready at that end. So, is that something you’re always thinking about is “I’ve got to stay up on this stuff”?
Jasmine Doctolero: 100%. So, when I’m in the workforce, I’m always asking people, “Oh, how was your training experience when you were growing up?” And that kind of gives me a visual perspective of how they grew up. I can implement it into what we are developing today and that way people are more comfortable doing our learning with virtual reality per se. And, in the future, there’s probably going to be some crazy stuff like – we have self-driving cars, maybe we’ll have flying cars in the future, but we all know how to drive a car and we want to implement that into new technologies that we’re developing today.
Steven: I’ve wanted the flying car since I used to watch the Jetsons as a little kid; I got to tell ya. I love that idea. But let’s go back to Ken and Marjorie now and say, ok – something struck me from the very beginning when you guys were talking about some of the people in your organization just don’t want to get on, so they retire and what have you, but for those of us that want to stay involved and stuff, is it a willingness to try new things? Is that something we have to continue to be open with as we age with our various organizations? Ken?
Ken Blanchard: Yes, I really feel that if you stop learning, you ought to lie down and let them throw the dirt on you, because you’re already dead. I’m excited, you know, I’ve celebrated that 60th anniversary of my 21st birthday, and I’m really still excited about learning and meeting new people and finding out where they are. Our grandkids teach us a lot of stuff. Our youngest is 15 and our oldest is 30, so we’re learning a lot from them.
Marjorie Blanchard: It helps to bring in new people to the organization also. If you just stay with the same people who have to learn on their own, if you can bring in people that are further ahead or further down the pipe than you are, then that’s very inspiring – first of all – to work with them. One of the things we’re doing is, we’re doing more of these learning journeys where we are looking at the individual and where do they need to be at the end of a certain period of time, and their journey might include coaching; it might include some kind of reading, some kind of instructor-led training over time. I mean, one of the things that I think technology does is it gives us the advantage of being able to spread training out. We’re doing less “just in case” training; it’s better to spread it out, do real work and – you know, as you’re learning – and check in with each other, but have different modalities. That’s very popular, because people learn in different ways.
Ken: It’s amazing – in 2019, we maybe did 20, 30 or 40 online sessions a month. We did 750 last month – online learning.
Steven: Wow! That’s incredible!
Ken: But we brought in people with talent too, that knew how to do that. We just didn’t sort of say, “Let’s see if our older folks can learn how to do this,” you know? We’re learning by watching too.
Steven: That’s kind of what Eric said. Eric, just one more thought – you were talking about what you have to look at even if it goes way back to when if somebody was going to come in, we have to kill him because they might take my position. This is one of those things that the 21st-century organization – you kind of, if you want to be successful – you can’t be afraid to bring in people that have more talent in certain areas than you.
Eric: Yes, absolutely. I have a cofounder of a large Silicon Valley company and he’s the CTO and the other cofounder is a CEO. When I started coaching the CTO, we had met with the CEO and I said, “What’s your goal for him?” and he said, “I want Chris to hire somebody he has no business hiring.” Right? And to your point, there’s a point in which growth can be – let’s see, it’s difficult to keep growing from within, right? If we want to be able to make a real phase shift, we’re gonna have to find that talent and experience elsewhere, right? I mean, that’s my job, our job – this entire conversation is about industry. It’s predicated on the notion that there are people who know how to teach and that they can impart that knowledge onto others in an effective way, so you either learn that or you hire that. I think that any executive who is insecure enough to not bring in people who are better than them in some ways is going to keep a very tight lid on the growth and the success of the organization. Bringing in somebody who’s got the experience, has got the genius – not having to be the most important, the most brilliant, the most notorious, the most famous, the most whatever – person in the room is one of the great keys to success, right? The CEO or the leader who wants to be the brightest, the smartest, the strongest, the fastest, is a pain in the neck and is absolutely going to keep the lid on their organization.
Steven: I want to take one more shot at training. Karen, I wanted to ask you – we’ve talked about designing programs and what you have to do and so forth, but in terms of reaching all of these various generations, because you still want to train these people and people come in at different learning stages and so forth – it almost seems kind of like the guy on Ed Sullivan that used to spin the plates – you’ve got to keep these things all running. So, if you are in charge of a training company like that, how do you do this to affect everybody’s needs? One size certainly doesn’t fit all in the 21st-century.
Karen Medsker: I really think we have to gear ourselves to the younger generations, to the more up-to-date. I think older people can get on board with that. It’s a whole lot better gearing it to the newer approaches than it is gearing it to the old approaches.
Steven: What a great conversation this has been today. I’ve learned a lot. The whole idea of generations – we raised as many questions as we answered, but that’s the idea. This is a great conversation. I want to close out – I want to ask Ken actually, who’s written the book. Ken, if you are giving advice to people in terms of dealing with generations – and again, not just to people in your generation, but all the way down to generation Z – what would you recommend? Is it more a case of openness or embracing it? What would you tell them, as they are about to enter a new organization?
Ken: I would say that they need to have a mindset that none of us is as smart as all of us. All the brains are not in their office; that 1+1 is a lot greater than 2, and how do you utilize and bring in people that have differences and together create something that’s fabulous.
Steven: This conversation was fabulous. I hope we can do it again. Thank you all for participating. You all were great. I appreciate it.
Eric: Thank you Steve. Thank you, Karen, Ken, Marjorie, Anthony, and Jasmine.
Karen: Thanks Steve. Thanks everyone.