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Experts Talk Age Differences In The Workplace

Kealey Bultena
BridgeWorks' Scott Zimmer and Hannah Ubl

People who study differences across generations say they have some tips for business leaders and workers. Experts with a Minneapolis organization are in Sioux Falls. They’re discussing the social and business benefits of creating a collaborative atmosphere across ages.

Scott Zimmer is the Generation X representative for BridgeWorks. Hannah Ubl is the millennial. They both say all age groups attract stereotypes. 

"Scott’s generation was slackers, grunge, Nirvana, flannel,” Ubl says.

Ubl says people often brand millennials as entitled, lazy, tech-dependent, and overly-sensitive. She says some workers struggle to understand what inspires younger employees – because it isn’t what encourages older workers.

"Millennials were raised by Baby Boomer parents who said to them, ‘If you’re going to work as long and as hard as I did, you have to do something that matters. You have to do something you’re passionate about.’ So what we have now is an entire generation that is motivated by pursuing their personal passion," Ubl says.

She says that means millennials are more likely to do work that they believe makes a difference. Ubl says age is just one factor affecting career choices. She points to family makeup, how quickly people can advance, and pay as elements that affect how people of various generations measure success.

Ubl and Scott Zimmer say leaders should provide an environment that emphasizes the advantages of different generations. Zimmer says workers of all ages can achieve better quality and productivity through cooperation.

"We don’t want it to be an us-versus-them, old-versus-young mentality, because so much gets put on that and then we’re not bridging those gaps and getting to know one another," Zimmer says. "So we really want to deliver something that gets people thinking about ‘How can I create a workspace where every generation here feels valued, respected, understood, and motivated?'"

Zimmer says that’s crucial in the current economic climate, because businesses need to retain effective employees. He and Ubl say people in Generation X feel stalled in their work. They point to new research shows more than one third of millennials plan to leave their companies in the next two years – all while thousands of Baby Boomers look to retirement.

The BridgeWorks speakers are hosting a workshop Wednesday morning in Sioux Falls. Visit this link for more information.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).