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Create a Culture That Inspires: Generational Differences at Work

Create a Culture That Inspires: Generational Differences at Work

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 8, Episode 54
  • Learn about the similarities and differences of the various generations in how they relate to the workplace, including their CliftonStrengths, and the value they bring.
  • Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.

Paul Walters, Workplace Consultant at Gallup, was our guest on a recent Called to Coach. In Part 8 of a webcast series focusing on Creating a Culture That Inspires, Paul focused on generational differences in the workplace and Gallup's research on this topic, including CliftonStrengths. His insights included:

  • The unique characteristics of the Gen Z and millennial generations
  • How the generations are similar in outlook and CliftonStrengths
  • The importance of seeing the value each person brings and treating everyone as an individual

Access Create a Culture That Inspires -- Part 1, and Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 9, Part 10 and Part 11 of the Create a Culture That Inspires series.

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.

Gen Z is the first generation in which White and Caucasian is not the majority. It is the most diverse generation that is out there. And that's going to have big implications, right, of what the workforce looks like.

Paul Walters, 3:42

These generations [millennials and Gen Z] are saying, we understand what we're not good at. We don't want that to be our focal point. This is what we're good at. How can we leverage this to be successful in a role?

Paul Walters, 10:12

What each generation should should do is be thinking about, What value does this other person in this other generation bring to our department? Given their youth, what value does that actually add? ... And if I'm thinking about someone who is older, what does that experience -- what value does that bring to the company?

Paul Walters, 17:22

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on June 19, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:18

Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room. Link right above me on the live page to get in there. Or if you're listening after the fact and you have some questions, you are always welcome to email us, and I get a lot of these emails lately: Don't forget, if you're on YouTube, subscribe. Just a way to get notified every time we create something new. And if you want to listen to this as a podcast, it is available on any podcast app, just search "Gallup Webcasts." Paul Walters is our host today. Paul's a Workplace Consultant here at Gallup with me. Paul, always great to have you on Called to Coach. Welcome back!

Paul Walters 1:01

Thanks, Jim. Happy to be here.

Jim Collison 1:02

Paul, we are going through a series on building Cultures That Inspire, and we've covered a bunch of different topics so far, and they're available in our series if folks go back and search on that. We just spent some time with Trust and Transparency and working through that. We want to dive a little bit into generational differences when we think about this, right. And it's been a topic. It's been hot; it's a little bit on the back burner right now, but it'll come back. So when we, when we say that, Paul, when we say generational differences, what do we really mean?

Paul Walters 1:31

Yeah, you know, it's interesting. We actually have, with clients I work with and some of the courses I lead, generational differences comes up a lot. And essentially, well, I'll say this first, it oftentimes, it's maybe some older generations saying, Hey, we don't understand millennials or we don't understand Gen Z. How do we work with them? How do we manage them? So oftentimes, it comes from this lens of, What do we do with the young people, essentially? How do we get them -- yeah, right, how do we get them to do things the way we want them done?

Paul Walters 2:04

That's oftentimes where it comes from. When we think about generational differences, Gallup has studied this. Let me just throw out two reports that people can download. One of them is our millennials report. Now it's a couple years old, but I think it still has some really great data in there. And then we have a Gen Z report. And our Gen Z report, our Generation Z report, is much smaller, mostly because they're -- they were -- they're -- Gen Z is born in 1997 to present. So they're still young. And because Gallup predominantly studies the workplace, there's not a ton [of Gen Z'ers] in the workplace yet. So we've -- we're getting a sense of what Gen Z looks like in the workplace, but it's very, very small report, just because we don't have a lot of data on them.

Paul Walters 2:46

But yeah, when people think about generations, they're usually thinking about 5 buckets. We've got traditionalists, baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z. So that's how Gallup defines the 5 different generations. And truthfully, this is -- this is a time where we might have all 5 of these actually in the workplace. Now traditionalist mostly are out the door, but it's possible that some still exist. But for sure we have boomers, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z all in the workplace. And so we, what we hear is, Hey, if we have all these different generations, how do we get them to work together?

Paul Walters 3:22

Before we talk about that, because we are going to talk about that, let me share some uniquenesses -- unique aspects of Gen Z and millennials. Because people -- that tends to be in high demand; what is different about these generations? Because that influences maybe how we manage them. So a few things about about Gen Z first. Gen Z is the first generation in which White and Caucasian is not the majority. It is the most diverse generation that is out there. And that's that's going to have big implications, right, of what the workforce looks like, which is great. We have increasing diversity of the future workforce, so that -- but that -- they're the first generation to have such diversity.

Paul Walters 4:04

When I think of Gen Z, we hear a lot of different buzzwords that that really seem to align and resonate for them. A few of them are entrepreneurial, technology obsessed, intrinsically motivated, good multitaskers. What we tend to see with Gen Z, in terms of what they value, they value flexibility, growth opportunities, teamwork, empowerment, and community involvement and social justice. I also think about Gen Z in terms of how they like to learn. They really appreciate mentoring and job shadowing, which makes sense, Jim, because they're younger, right? So they want to, I have to observe Jim in his role, because I'd like to learn on the job. They appreciate structured feedback and hands-on experiences, along with some elearning capabilities as well.

Paul Walters 4:53

So that ability to do the hands-on blending with elearning because they are so connected to technology. So that's Gen Z, just some of the differences of what we see with Gen Z. Millennials have really 4 different points that I think of as different. One of them is millennials tend to be unconstrained, meaning that they don't like to be told, "This is the way it's always been done. So we're going to do it this way." They ask an important question to other generations in the workforce, which is Why? Why are we doing it this way? And oftentimes, there's really not a good answer other than, "This is how we've always been doing it," which tends to bother them. Then, they're also unattached. That's the second thing. And when I think about unattached, what they're -- what we -- what they mean by that is, as consumers, they're not attached to a particular brand.

Paul Walters 5:06

I think of -- I grew up in a rural part of Iowa, small town, a farming community, and families for generations were either Case International or John Deere. And no matter what you that you were that for life. Younger farmers and millennial farmers are saying, actually, You know what, I'm going to go where I can get the most value. And that's the difference of millennial generation is they don't get to stick with one brand; they go where the most value and aligns with their personal their mission and purposes in the company and the company's values.

Paul Walters 6:17

The other piece within unattached is they're unattached to a particular company. So you think of other generations that would work for a company and stay there forever. I think of my grandma, who worked for Colgate on the factory line, literally her whole life, right? I'm not sure -- I doubt that it was about there's -- she was really passionate about Colgate products. But it was you were loyal to a company, they took care of you and that's what you did. Millennials are not that way. We also see that millennials are connected. And that means a they have access -- they had access to technology at a young age. And they're also idealistic. They tend to be really optimistic about the world. More than any other generation, they carry the most amount of debt and they are underemployed, yet they are more optimistic about the future compared to other generations.

Jim Collison 7:08

Paul, on these, as we think about this, big generalizations, right? And are this -- is this U.S.? Is our understanding of this as based on U.S. data or global data?

Paul Walters 7:20

Yep. Good question. So yes, so I'll say two things. One is, yes, it's U.S. data. So there's an asterisk there. The second piece, I would say is, this is on average, right? When we did our research around this, it doesn't mean every Gen Z person and every millennial is exactly this way, and you should manage them this way.

Jim Collison 7:38

Well, and I want to say I've had this joke going around Gallup for a long time that I might be the oldest millennial you'll ever meet, because I adhere -- like many of these things, many of these traits that we've talked about, aren't necessarily -- they didn't necessarily emerge because of the generation but the opportunities of that generation changed. When my dad was growing up, he didn't have a smartphone. He couldn't be -- he worked for IBM for 35 years. He was in that, in that group, right, born in 1930. Joined a company, stayed with it retired from it, got the Rolex watch. Did the whole -- lived that experience, right? But he didn't have a smartphone. He wasn't connected to the internet. He didn't have -- now, if he had been, he might have taken some of those.

Jim Collison 8:24

And this is kind of the way I've seen it too, is that for me, there's these new opportunities. I -- I'm on the phone just as much as any millennial. I'm 52. Right? I'm on the phone as much as any, as any millennial. The point being is there's been some things we've discovered about how the culture is changing. In other words, we've changed from maybe paycheck to purpose. Can you talk about a few of those? Because I think that's kind of drives the conversation a little bit and keeps us from stereotyping a generation, and more talks about the values that, that the generation has brought to the workplace.

Paul Walters 9:00

Yeah, so I, and I love what you said, Jim, especially like, "I feel like I'm a millennial." So what was really interesting when we looked at our data is for both generations, and we see these uniquenesses of these two generations. But to me, the big Aha!, with our research around generations, is that these two generations are actually not that different than any other generation in terms of what they want. What has happened is the millennial generation has demanded a shift in the culture of a workplace.

Paul Walters 9:34

And that culture is exactly what you said, moving from paycheck, where it's just about collecting that paycheck every other, every other week, to purpose. I want to have mission to the work that I'm doing. I want to feel like I'm contributing to something bigger and greater than what I am. It's moving from my role to my development, meaning it's more about the opportunity for me to learn and grow, and "learn and grow" doesn't necessarily mean that I move up in a company, but how am I learning new things that are going to advance who I am as a person, to my, my intelligence, all of that. Moving from weaknesses to strengths, which I think most people are familiar with, this -- these generations are saying, we understand what we're not good at. We don't want that to be our focal point. This is what we're good at. How can we leverage this to be successful in a role?

Paul Walters 10:22

Also moving from boss to coach, which we've talked a lot about, as well, moving to a place where I'm asking questions and I'm collaborating with you, developing you versus telling you what to do (very hierarchical). Moving from annual, biannual review to my ongoing conversations. These generations want to have continued conversations with their with their managers, frequent, transparent, ongoing conversations with their people, with their managers. And that's a more effective way to manage them than an annual review. And then the last one is moving from my job to my life, understanding, I think, one of the unique things we saw with millennials is that they recognize that they spend a third of their life in their job. And so how can I find a work environment where the culture is one that allows me to live my life in my job? Meaning, Hey, I've got this really important thing I want to go to at 1:00 in the afternoon. Let me go do that; I'll work in the evening. Or I work really a lot better in the early morning hours. So I'm just going to work from like 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. And then I'll take the day off. Right.

Paul Walters 11:33

So it's adjusting people's schedules and the work environment to accommodate those individuals' lives. And, and the, the interesting thing here, Jim, and this aligns what you said before, is that while millennials are driving this change, all generations want these things. That's what we're finding, and that's why we're saying that there's not that big of a difference between those millennials and other generations or Gen Z and those, those other generations.

Jim Collison 12:04

Yeah, the, the gillen -- the gillennials -- my, my daughter calls herself a "zillennial." She's right in between, right? She is that '97, no, she's '98. So she's right in between. But man, we have had, Paul, we've had tons of conversations during this time where we've been together, we've been home together a lot, talking about those values, and really kind of working through those pieces. I think for the managers, for the organizations that see those strengths, that see those values, that are able to adapt their own culture to take advantage of those -- and sometimes you can't, right? I mean, yeah, flex scheduling is great. But if I'm a service worker, I got to show up when the shop opens, right? (If you ever get to go back to those kinds of things, right?)

Jim Collison 12:49

Well, and look at what, you know, as we think about, it's June 2020, and we're in the, we're in the middle of this pandemic. That's also a huge disrupter in changing what does the service industry look like and can millennials adapt and change to that? And how will that affect them and their values going forward? I think there's some, just some incredible pieces there. When we look at the strengths of these, though, and I get a little scary, or a little scared, when I start thinking about this, because people kind of drill a little too much into it. But the -- we pulled some numbers and kind of looked at strengths by generation, and how they're, how they're a little bit the same and a little bit different. What do we see there?

Paul Walters 13:27

Yeah. So I'll start with maybe traditionalists, so they have a response -- so, so first, let me talk about our global Top 5. When you look at our global database, the Top 5 are Achiever, Responsibility, Relator, Strategic and Learner. So those are the global Top 5. And so when we look at all the generations, there's, there's certainly some overlap, but there are some distinctions. One of those distinctions is with traditionalists. So they have Responsibility, Learner, Achiever. The two unique ones that they have are Connectedness and Input. Right. So that's the uniqueness when I think of traditionalists. Boomers and -- baby boomers and Gen X, they actually both have the same Top 5 that fall in our global database: Responsibility, Learner, Achiever, Relator, Strategic, just in different orders.

Jim Collison 14:15

Yeah. And that may be because they've made up a bulk, like --

Paul Walters 14:19

For sure. They are probably the majority of our of our --

Jim Collison 14:23

And it's gonna start changing. I think what's important as we think as [Gen Z] and millennials, they're the new, they're now the new ones taking CliftonStrengths. So talk a little bit about that.

Paul Walters 14:32

Yeah. And millennials have to that come into play that are different: Empathy and Adaptability, Empathy and Adaptability, which aligns with sort of this Connectedness aspect of connection, the connected aspect of millennials because they feel like they're part of a global community. And so they might feel Empathy for people around the world. And the Adaptability is there, which, and I'm not really sure where that Adaptability has come from, but it's a uniqueness to them. Gen Z has a unique No. 1 theme, which is Restorative. And for those who don't know Restorative theme, it's really about solving problems. They see problems that other people don't have, they get energy from solving those problems. So that's a, that's a unique thing that we see with Gen Z that we don't see with other generations. The other piece is they actually have Adaptability as well. Now again, asterisk here is this is our first snapshot of Gen Z. When we look at Gen Z 5 years from now and more of them are in the workplace, what that, that Top 5 might be might shift slightly, but what we have there is, is pretty interesting.

Jim Collison 15:38

Yeah, yeah, no. And certainly it's even -- when we think about the data collection aspect of it, these folks have opted in; this is not a statistical or sample survey-type option, so we have to be very, very careful in the in the assumptions that we make. Certainly not use those as weapons; these, these are not, we should not be using these kinds of, you know, taking, sometimes taking these themes and using them as weapons. What do we know? OK, let's, let's kind of wrap this up as we kind of bring it in for a landing, Paul. How should just change the way we think and what we do, and give us some final thoughts on this.

Paul Walters 16:13

Yeah, so I would say in a couple ways. One is, first don't make assumptions about particular generations. You either by looking at this data and assuming all millennials are this way, or Gen Z's are this way, or if these are their Top 5 strengths, this is what they, who they are. The best managers, as we've talked about before, individualize their approach. So I would go to your people who are millennials or Gen Z and ask them about their strengths, ask how they like to be managed, ask what they value in the workplace, and what that culture should look like, and let that inform the decision.

Paul Walters 16:48

Another piece is that what I talked about -- that shift in the workplace, honoring that for all generations, because all generations want and need that. I would also say -- and this is goes for all generations. You know, we see a lot of people that, you know the phrase, "OK, boomer," right, where people make fun of baby boomers. Or we see the older generations talking disparagingly about the younger generations, like you said, "Why, those young whippersnappers! Why can't they just do things like us?" Instead of doing that, what each generation should should do is be thinking about, What value does this other person in this other generation bring to our department? Given their youth, what value does that actually add? Maybe it brings new ideas, maybe it brings energy. And if I'm thinking about someone who is older, what does that experience -- what value does that bring to the, to the company? What value does that bring to me?

Paul Walters 17:43

So it's always thinking about what value do these nuances in these other generations bring to our team, and to me as an individual? And I always think of the Platinum Rule, the reverse Golden Rule, which is treating others the way they want to be treated, not the way I want to be treated. So how does, how do baby boomers want to be treated? How do millennials or Gen X, or any of those, want to be treated? It's in conversation with them. That's how you figure it out and think about the value they bring versus the other, the negative side of it.

Jim Collison 18:15

Yeah. Paul, I can't. I can't express enough the importance of the Individualization component of this with people. And that these give us hints and clues, right, some things to talk about, but really, at the end of the day, we're talking about people. And I have some coworkers that I work with it, we call them "old souls," You know, they just, they, sometimes they, the things they do or the things they value -- a little bit more traditional, or a little bit more old school, right. And, and, and so we need to appreciate that. Like, it's about the individual, the appreciation.

Jim Collison 18:49

I get, I kind of go a little sideways sometimes. And I've seen this in the, in the community sometimes, where we try to slap these labels on. We have the data and we show it. We do it; I always get a little leery because then people start kind of like, "Well, then," and at least to that, I want to say -- and I think you've done a very nice job of doing this throughout it -- there are some trends. And there are some things to help with. At the end of the day, it's really about teams and managers and individuals working together, right, and understanding their uniqueness. And there may be some trends that help us out along the way. But really, at the end of the day, it's about my Top 5, it's about your Top 5, it's about anybody in the chat room's, Top 5 or the global Top 5, as far as how we do that. Any final thoughts before I wrap it?

Paul Walters 19:28

Yeah, no, the last thing I'll say is that actually aligns really well with one of our guiding principles with strengths, which is themes are not labels, right? These reports are not meant to label generations as this is who they are. It's individualizing that approach and having those conversations where you can have the most value.

Jim Collison 19:42

Yeah, no, that's great. We have -- these reports are available. We now have kind of a reports hub, if you search -- and we'll probably throw the link -- I'll have Mark throw the link in the show notes for this, so after it's produced. But if you just Google "Gallup Reports," you'll come to our reporting page, and this report, as, as well as a bunch of other ones (and I apologize I didn't have it ready for the chat room) is available for you out there. You can download that and have take a look. If you're having trouble sleeping at night, they work that, they work well for that as well. Just a couple reminders to take advantage of all the full resources that are available (numbers kind of make me sleepy, so) all the resources that are available now through Gallup Access. Head out to, and you can join us there. There's a link to our newsletter at the bottom of the page if you want to do that. We send that out monthly, and just a great way to stay up to date on all things strengths. Questions can be sent to Follow us on Eventbrite: will get you there. In Facebook, go to -- all one word. And on LinkedIn, you can find us by searching "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches." We want to thank you for joining us today. Paul, maybe a little bit -- maybe a few questions in the postshow, so everybody hang tight if you're listening live. If you're listening to the recorded version, I bet we have another one of these. So just click "Play," and we should have one available for you. With that, we'll say, Goodbye everybody.

Paul Walters' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Communication, Arranger, Competition and Woo.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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