Editor’s Note: Next gen mindset

November 8, 2018 -  By
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Headshot: Marisa Palmieri

Headshot: Marisa Palmieri

A spot on the local news gathered a few pieces of technology from decades past—a Sony Walkman, a pager, film, a floppy disc, an old TV “clicker”—and showed them to school-aged kids of today to see if they knew what purpose each item served. Hilarity ensued.

The kids ranged in age from maybe five to 12—members of Generation Z or the newest group, Generation Alpha.

Although your youngest employees aren’t quite as young as the kids I saw on the news, there’s a good chance they’ve never used these items, either. It’s likely they’ve never encountered other innovations that once made your business tick, like a Nextel device or a fax machine.

As Kevin Kehoe points out in his column this month, each generation changes the workplace in its own way. Millennials—the largest generation currently in the labor force—want better tools and better pay, Kehoe says. In today’s strapped labor market, they just may be able to demand those things.

I don’t always agree with how generations are stereotyped (disclosure: I’m a millennial who identifies more with the subgroup of xennials), but I am fascinated by the differences among age groups. If you’re an employer or manager, you should be too. The ability to attract and retain people is the difference between successful companies and unsuccessful ones in our industry. Understanding generational differences and how you can use them to your advantage is pure opportunity.

One resource for getting to know your younger employees is The Mindset List, published annually since 1998 by Ron Nief and Tom McBride at Beloit College in Wisconsin. It started as a clever way of informing college faculty members about how to identify with new students, but it has been used for much more than that. In fact, McBride and Nief authored a book based on the lists called “The Millennial Promise,” offering details about this generation’s attitudes on topics like politics and economics and tips on how to better educate them. I bet it offers some nuggets about how to better employ them, too.

This list is released in August before the school year begins and details the worldview of the entering class of collegiate freshmen. Consider these facts about this year’s group—members of the college class of 2022, who were mostly born in 2000:

  • They’ve grown up with stories about where their grandparents were on 11/22/63 and where their parents were on 9/11.
  • A visit to a bank has been a rare event.
  • They have grown up afraid that a shooting could happen at their school.
  • “You’ve got mail” would sound as ancient to them as “number, please” would have sounded to their parents.

They have rarely heard the term “bipartisan agreement” and always have been able to secure immediate approval and endorsement for their ideas through “likes” on social media.

A few years back, the authors asked, “How will the absence of instant online approval impact their performance in the classroom and workplace?”

You’re the one who’s going to find out on the job. Are you doing your best to understand what you’re up against?

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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