A current HR trend centers on how older managers manage the new generation of workers. This set of articles from Tom Searcy focuses on what both generations can learn from each other.

What older workers can learn from Gen Y:

1. “Why” really matters. The new generation wants to understand motivation, context and the larger vision for everything that they do. That means that the senior workers need to be patient and answer. The understanding of “why” can lead to smart changes as well as better execution.

2. ABC: Always Be Clarifying. Each generation has a subconscious shorthand that conveys huge meaning. Think of these examples, “Challenger Disaster,” “Camelot,” “Leave the gun; take the cannoli,” and “jump the shark.” Similar shorthands happen all the time in the professional sphere–and translate into misunderstood expectations. If you want yours met, then you need to ABC.

3. Stop being scared of technology. To the new generation, technology is neither expensive nor scary: It is absolutely necessary. My generation’s horrors of the millions poured into the Y2K myth and the false promises of ERP systems are irrelevant context for this generation. They are unafraid of technology–and they can serve as guides to lead senior generations to real business benefits.

4. Communicate frequently and briefly. I remember a time when people felt there wasn’t enough communication inside of companies and between providers and customers. Now it can be the opposite. The new generation communicates more often, in shorter bursts of information and throughout the process. They want the same from us. They are not used to the idea that communication would happen once a week at a staff meeting when a text message could keep everyone current instantaneously.

5. Vary your language and method. You already know the marketing rule: “Reach the customer where she is, how she wants to be reached.” The same rule applies to the new generation. Communicate using all of the tools available, including texting. Withhold your judgments: Just because you are not used to texting (or email, or even voicemail) does not make it bad. If you want the new generation to be more productive and effective, communicate in their language and method.

6. Explain your rules. Business protocols have changed quite a bit over the generations. There was a time in American business when the large company dictated many of the rules of its employees’ lives–including associations, dress code and even free-time activities. The new generation chafes at even the slightest perceived infringement on its choices. Be careful about the rules you choose–and be able to explain the “why” if you want the new generation to stay highly motivated.

Tom turns the tables and lists what Gen Y can learn from Older Workers:

1. Wake up earlier. You may have had a schedule you set in college, but now the work world has its own schedule: Not only do you need to show up for it, but you need to be awake and highly functioning. Attendance is only graded in the negative; performance is what is graded in the positive.

2. Details matter. Grammar, spelling, dress, and communication form and structure all matter. “They know what I mean” shows sloppy work and sloppy thinking. In a world that moves faster and is more deeply connected, little missed details can lead to big mistakes.

3. Experience trumps education. Your degree is very important to you, your parents and your professors. But experience in the field is what matters in the real world. We are not as interested in your classwork as in your internship, your job, and your life, travel and personal experiences. Lead with your experience when contributing a point of view to have more credibility and impact.

4. Never be too good to get the coffee. Regardless of generation, a culture with an esprit de corps of “pitching in” is always a positive. Unload the break-room dishwasher, get the coffee, bring an extra water from the refrigerator for someone else to the meeting. These things are valued when they happen, and noticed when they don’t.

5. Commitments mean more than just “best effort.” Senior generations expect that when someone makes a commitment, he or she means it. If you didn’t follow through, an “I did my best” attitude is just not acceptable. Make no mistake: Senior executives will expect you to either meet your commitments or, if you’re having difficulties, raise an alarm well in advance of the deadline.

6. Multitask, yes; multi-think, no. You can walk and talk on the phone at the same time. That’s multitasking. You cannot give full attention in a meeting and be texting or emailing at the same time. Be fully present to only one activity at a time if that activity requires thinking.

7. Organization is speed. Being organized creates speed rather than impedes it. Use the company tools for organizing information, the forms for requests/expenses/approvals and the existing scheduling mechanisms–all of them will help you (and everyone else) move faster through complex systems.

8. “Why?” is fine for context, but not for choice. Younger workers often ask “why?” when it comes to policies, processes and approaches. This can be a little irritating to generations who are used to quiet, respectful compliance. “Why?” is a great way to get clarity and context on an assignment–but it doesn’t mean that if you don’t like the answer, you get to choose whether to do it. Unless the assignment is illegal, unethical or immoral, the answer to your question should have little impact on whether you perform what has been asked.

The two original posts can be found on INC: and