Leveraging generational work styles to meet business

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Author: Neil Simons
Date: January-February 2010
From: Information Management Journal(Vol. 44, Issue 1)
Publisher: Association of Records Managers & Administrators (ARMA)
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,061 words

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Since the 1960s, when the term "generation gap" was first coined to describe the differences between the WWII population (the Silent Generation) and its offspring (Baby Boomers), generations have been learning how to co-exist. Pop culture is rife with attitudes and preferences based on generational differences--consider the Queen of Soul vs. the King of Pop. In the workplace, however, the differences can be muted, with changes developing below the radar.

Today, Baby Boomers, Generation X (Gen X), and Generation Y (Gen Y) are trying to iron out the ripples in the workplace caused by their generational differences. How work actually is accomplished is influenced by their varying expectations, methods, and use of technology tools.

Records and information management (RIM) is affected by these generational influences, too, as RIM practices, expectations, and technologies mature and change. Organizational management styles and attitudes about how work gets done are in a state of flux, perhaps more than ever before, punctuated by the integration of these differences and other technological advancements.

In tandem with the changing dynamics in the generational landscape, the very nature of information is changing as well. Now, more than ever, it is regarded as a key resource for doing business and delivering services. As a result, it's important to consider generational differences and how they may affect an organization's ability to function effectively, particularly with regard to RIM. Developing strategies that bridge generational gaps can help ensure a productive RIM environment.

This chart provides a distillation of Gen X's and Gen Y's experiences, ideas, and values and conveys further suggestions for working with the younger generations.

Snapshot of Three Generations

To understand the gaps that exist in today's workplace, it's helpful to take a glimpse of each generational group and the context in which its members grew up.

Baby Boomers

* Born 1946-1964 during Post-WWII

* Characterized by social change and increasing affluence

In contrast to their predecessors, Boomers grew up in a time of affluence. As a group, they were the healthiest and wealthiest generation to that time, growing up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time.

Boomers tended to think of themselves as a special generation; different from those individuals that had come before them. The assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Dr. Martin Luther King, who represented their liberal beliefs, deeply affected them and fueled their fire in rejecting or redefining traditional values.

This generation's business and government RIM practices focus on physical, centralized, and institutionalized paper filing. Boomers have significant respect for institutional information; and they view technologies used for managing matters of record as "artifacts" of the organizational culture.

Generation X

* Born 1965-1976 during the later years of and after the Cold War

* Characterized by the expansion of mass media and the advent of technology

Gen X grew up in a very different world, where divorce and working morns created "latch-key" kids out of many in this generation. This led to traits of independence, resilience, and adaptability. In the workplace, this translates to a need for...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A234997882