By Mark Manning, Project Manager

A little more than a year ago I had the unique experience of working overseas. This experience heightened my awareness of cultural differences. In addition to language, there are many other attributes such as religious holidays and observances, social norms and customs, and tribal beliefs and influences that create these differences. It became very apparent that the awareness and understanding of these differences was going to be vital for project success.

I showed up on the job site one day expecting to see nearly a thousand-man workforce hard at work. Instead, I was looking around at a ghost town. I soon realized that the day was a holiday that I had not been aware of. This experience heightened my awareness to the importance of understanding the culture of the people you are working with.

Understanding cultural differences and effective communication is vital to project success. Returning to work back in the states, I experienced another workforce challenge that was very reminiscent to my overseas experience. But instead of cultural differences, I was experiencing generational experiences.
Who would have thought that people born and raised in the same part of the same country but in different generational times would have completely different views, perspectives and motivations? And not only that, but these differences require different methods and styles of communication to be effective.

Baby Boomers are a generation of 80 million. Today they represent 30% of the workforce. They are the group of workers that most of the today’s managing methods have focused on for so long. But they are rapidly leaving the workforce and along with their departure is our conventional wisdom of what motivates people and influences behaviors.

The Xers are a small generation: just 46 million. But they represent approximately 35% of the workforce. For some of us, they appear to be simply, the younger generation. They grew up in a world characterized by high divorce rates, an unstable economy and high crime rates. Xers were the first generation of latchkey children. They are focused, resourceful and independent, and they are characterized by a “show me the money” short-term orientation. Although Xers are hard workers and dedicated to their careers, they possess a lack of loyalty to an organization because their focus is on themselves and their family.

The newest generation in the workplace are the Millennials. There are 76 million of them who represent about 35% of the workplace. Over the next decade they will become the most dominant generation on the job as the Boomers continue to retire. They are a sheltered group and are used to being treated as special. Millennials expect continual praise and may misinterpret silence to mean that they are doing something wrong. They identify closely with their friends and (more than previous generations) they turn to their family for guidance and support. Millennials have grown up very team-oriented, at times to the detriment of independent critical thinking. They are very life-balance oriented, but have little patience for delayed gratification.

Vogel Bros. believes people are the key to our success. Understanding who you work with and what motivates them is essential to project success and helps cultivate our most valuable resource. Respecting those we work with enough to understand their differences is our strength. Knowing our people and our customers allows us to better communicate with them, partner with them and collaborate for mutually beneficial success.

(Oh and by the way: the post-millennial generation is entering the work force now…better plan for it!)