ENGAGING ACROSS GENERATIONS
In our work as virtual facilitators, it is likely that we are engaging across generations, each of which has different aptitudes and comfort levels for technology and virtual learning. Additionally, in any group, you may find that some people are more comfortable than others. As we lead virtual calls, it
is important to consider the experiences of different generations, not to spotlight differences, but to better understand each generation’s comfort level with different types of technology. These shape our preferences for virtual conversations.
Let’s take a closer look at each generation.
Baby Boomers (1946–1964)
While this generation is starting to retire out of the work force, you may still be working with Boomers as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and mentors, if not as leaders. Keep in mind that Boomers have historically valued teamwork and meetings in ways that others do not. This can lead to preferences on their part for meetings which are not shared by others. The Boomers have seen technology emerge in the workplace from Rolodexes to the first satellite phones, which were often housed in a briefcase.
Gen Xers (1965–1979)
Enshrined in Douglas Coupland’s book Gen X, Xers have a smaller demographic footprint in the workplace than both Boomers and Gen Yers, due to their size. They bring a variance in their technological savvy. As a member of this generation, I explored DOS programming in Grade Six computer science camp and marveled at Atari’s pixelated games. I wrote my high school papers on a computer, although I had to save them on floppy disks. When I led programming and teams of more than a hundred in South America, we were connected by short-range radio, while my communication with the head office was through the fax, or an email that sat in Trinidad overnight. The need to take immediate action led to high degrees of autonomy in my work as a leader. Gen Xers may be comfortable in the virtual realm, as many of us started engaging in “distance learning,” as it was called in the 1990s. Not all of us may be as comfortable in navigating the ever-changing platforms, even though we will enjoy the real-time nature of virtual events and focus—as long as it is during work time.
Millennials (1980s–early 2000s)
The Millennials are the first digital natives. They value group work and collaboration, influenced by an educational process that was often more group oriented than earlier generations. One of the biggest distinctions seen with Millennials is their fluidity around different forms of digital communication.
For many, texting is as common as a verbal conversation. Real-time/just-in-time communication, or instantaneous communication, is often expected. Millennials are positioned to offer an important voice around innovation and creativity.
Gen Z (those born after 2000)
Gen Z are truly the digital natives. They have grown up with smart phones and tablets in their hands, and global connectivity. iPads are part of everyday life in classrooms, and for many are a toy from infancy. Skype and Face Time have replaced phone calls, and video streaming is their norm. YouTube is their TV. Gamification is an extension of their learning process. The ability to connect immediately with people around the world, getting real-time data and seeing inside each other’s households and businesses in a way that no other generation has experienced will no doubt shape what is possible with virtual learning.
Enjoy your reflection!
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