How Can We Understand Each Other Across the Generational Divide? by Deborah Cole
We believe we are in the green industry where we grow materials, or design, install, and manage landscapes.
We are actually in the people business. We are people-centric.
This means it is an absolute necessity that we understand the people with whom we work. We must build relationships inside our companies and with the customers we serve.
How do we foster healthy and productive relationships? We communicate.
In my horticultural education in college or on the job, I never had a class in people, communication or leadership.
Realizing that these competences were just as important as plant knowledge was eye-opening.
Our industry workforce (and our client base) may cover ages from 18-80.
Social scientists identify a wide range of communication styles across these generations.
There are also radically different styles of leadership and learning, longevity within the company, and problem solving.
5 identified age groups, along with their communication and leadership “styles” are:
Traditional (1925-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), GenX (1965-1979), GenY/Millennials (1980-1994) and GenZ (1995-).
Companies may include staff or clients from every one of these groups.
It is critical to understand how each group gives and receives information and learns.
We have all experienced frustration with sending emails/texts and receiving zero response.
Why do some of our customers want personal phone calls and refuse to use technology?
We may have repeatedly explained concepts, and do not understand why the trainee doesn’t “get it.”
Or struggle to understand job hopping. Why can’t someone who is hired just stick with the job? Why do they change jobs every year or so?
Others find it hard to believe people can tolerate one job for decades.
As owners or supervisors, we may not understand why those in the younger age groups seem to want constant feedback or praise.
Isn’t having a good job with a good paycheck enough?
Why can’t they easily take on responsibility?
Then there is the struggle with change.
Change is a way of life. Why are some people comfortable with change and/or new technology and others are not?
The first step: acknowledging significant differences between generations.
Then becoming aware of how we can adapt.
As leaders in our industry we must learn to be flexible in our expectations, whether they are staff or customers, and in our generation or another.
As the founder of a successful commercial landscape firm with multiple locations throughout Texas, Deborah Cole has learned the importance of communication through images and words.
She now devotes herself full time to photography, writing, marketing, and training.