Envision this scenario.  A group of middle-aged professionals sitting in a conference room with pen and paper at hand.  The presenter stands in front, pointing to some printed visual aids while interacting and making eye contact with the others in the room.  Notes are taken, questions are discussed, and assignments are delegated, to be reviewed at next month’s meeting.

Now, picture this scene.  A multi-generational group of professionals call into a meeting from various locations, some from their private offices, others from home, some even from across the globe.  The presenter’s face appears on the screen, then is quickly replaced by a slide show or a video.  One of the participants receives an instant message from a co-worker in need of a document.  She opens another window, sends off the document, and gets back to the meeting in less than a minute, unnoticed.  The meeting adjourns and the attendees immediately receive an email with meeting notes and assignments.

Both scenarios share a common goal, a business meeting with an agenda.  The big difference is, you guessed it, technology.  Not only has this increase in technology changed the way we do business, but it’s also created a new kind of generation gap, aka the technology generation gap.  It’s what happens when people from scenario one (i.e. Traditionalists and Boomers) enter scenario two (Millennials).

The problem with this technology generation gap occurs when business professionals, highly experienced in their trade, find themselves swimming in a sea of gadgets and unfamiliar language surrounded by tech-savvy twenty somethings.  So, where do they fit in?  How can they maintain their professional standing without drowning and survive what seems like a storm of information?  As a Business Consultant, here’s where I step in and the strategy that I execute.

Step 1: Identifying the Issue

The first step is identifying the problem as a technology generation gap.  When a business hires me to help with productivity, time management or process improvement, one common issue I see, that impacts all of these areas, is communication.  And usually, when I dig a little deeper, I discover the trouble with communication is technology, and the gap that occurs when new technology is introduced to a group of people, some who can’t imagine a world without it, and others who cringe at the thought of having to learn yet another new way of thinking and doing.

Step 2: Offering Reassurance 

Yes, Traditionalist and Boomers (50 and up) can work efficiently with Millennials (20-somethings).  Neither generation is right or wrong, winning or losing.  Both have a lot to offer, and need each other in order to be successful. There will be compromise by both sides, and everyone will have to be open to learning something new, even the savviest of the techies.

Step 3: Tackling the Technology Generation Gap

Like I said, both sides have to give and learn in order to reach that ultimate goal of professional bliss, known as job satisfaction and work-life balance.  So, identifying who needs to learn what, who the teacher will be, and how to execute is the next step.

For example, if social media is a big part of how a business communicates with its employees and clients, this is a perfect opportunity for the Millennial to be the teacher.  This is their meat and potatoes.  It’s what they’ve grown up on.  They understand that a quick text or IM can efficiently solve an issue today, rather than waiting for the monthly meeting to discuss.

On the other hand, while they were learning where to put the hashtags, they may have missed out on some vital communication skills, such as interpreting tone of voice, reactions and body language, as well as the importance of eye contact and professional written communication (no LOLs in business emails…ever, PLEASE).

Closing the Gap: Is it Possible?

Closing the technology generation gap is an ongoing challenge with many of my clients, but it’s an important challenge to accept.  Successful professionals from all generations are where they are because of their hard work and unique talents, and they can all learn from one another.

If you’re a Boomer, treading water, come up for air and give me a call.  You can learn new things, and be even more successful in your career.  Maybe you’re a Generation X-er (35-forty something), caught somewhere in the middle of this technological whirlwind.  There’s help for you, too!

And for all you Millennials, multi-tasking to the max, or getting lost in the frustration of why they (the old guys) just don’t get it (technology), take a deep breath and get some fresh air.  You might just discover that a “tweet” is actually the song of a bird…and that can make all the difference.

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