In today’s workplaces, millennials have overtaken baby boomers as America’s largest generation, said Lindsey Pollak, a multigenerational workplace coach.
What this means, Pollak told the 750 people attending the annual Economic Development for Central Oregon luncheon on Thursday, is that workers need to appreciate each generation’s strengths.
“We’ve been shaming our young people for all human history,” Pollak said. “I want us to stop. ”
Pollak, an author as well, was in Bend as the keynote speaker for the annual luncheon at Riverhouse on the Deschutes.
Roger Lee, CEO of Economic Development for Central Oregon, said the goal of his organization is to help businesses do what they do best and they can do that by understanding workforce generational diversity.
“I have been blind, too, in the ways of interacting with people from different generations,” Lee said after the luncheon meeting. “I’ve never thought of these things.”
From teaching those in the younger generation some of the so-called soft skills, like answering a phone or coming to work on time, older generations need to mentor and coach the younger generation.
The EDCO luncheon also featured a panel discussion about the value of internships. EDCO participates in Youth CareerConnect, a high school and college-age internship program in Central Oregon.
Businesses were encouraged to drop a business card in a vase if they were interested in providing internship opportunities.
Larry Holeman, regional coordinator for Youth CareerConnect, said any business is invited to participate in helping prepare the next workforce.
“We are providing experiences to students and businesses,” Holeman said. “We have to build this as a community. I’d love as many businesses as possible to participate.”
It’s so important, Pollak said because for the first time ever there are five generations of workers in today’s workforce. From the silent generation, those now in their 70s and 80s, to Generation Zs, those just entering the workforce, the baby boomers and millennials, they all communicate differently but have something to offer.
Today, 38% of working Americans have a boss younger than they are, Pollak said.
“Never has this happened before,” she said. “It’s unprecedented. We humans are more alike than different. As leaders and business owners, we need to use a generational lens to help us understand that someone’s life experiences and expectations are different than our own.”
Jim Schell, a Central Oregon author, came to the luncheon to hear Pollak talk about millennials so that he can better understand them.
“I realize now that it’s unfair to compare them to our generation and to put them down for everything they don’t know,” said the 83-year-old Schell.