Mine the Generation Gap

Traditional roles in the workplace are changing at an incredible pace. Our current workforce compromises primarily of three generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials.

With this in mind, Gauteng Women in Insurance hosted an event themed ‘Mine the Generation Gap’, at The Venue Melrose Arch, with Marsh as the main sponsor, and BAIR Insurance Recruitment as a co-sponsor.

Guest Speaker, Graeme Codrington, a South African author, futurist and strategy consultant, and a founding director of strategic insights firm, TomorrowToday shared key insights into the generational gap, followed by a panel discussion (made up of the different generations) with Alicia Narainsamy (SHA Specialist Underwriters), Annelot Schrijver (Willis Towers Watson), Charmaine Sneyd (Chief Executive Officer) and Nicole Harlley (Marsh Insurance Brokers).

3 generations, 1 workplace

“The gap between the different generations is not as big as it seems to be. If you get to understand generational differences, then you will start to understand them better and the gap is not so big,” said Codrington.

He went on to mention that different generations experience life stages differently. We may have the same worldviews and values, but the experiences are different.

“The era you were born in shaped you. Your culture, school curriculum, politics, history etc. shaped you more than you know. It is different now, than it was years back. And so, we need to recognise there are generational differences and different views of the world,” he said.

Here are some of the generational differences and defining values Codrington shared:

  • The Silent Generation is influenced by the World War II and The Great Depression. Their defining values include work hard, paying your dues, dedication, respect, they hate debt and the concept of waste not, want not applies. They grew up during tough times in authoritarian society.
  • Baby Boomers, which make up bosses and CEOs in our workforce, are influenced by grand visions, moon landing, rock n roll, etc. Their defining values include idealism, optimism, personal gratification, youthfulness, health, they are workaholics, live on credit, will "re-tyre" not retire.
  • Generation X, which make up senior staff in our workforce, are influenced by constant change, turmoil, cold war, breaking the unions, PCs and 24hr TV. Their defining values include choice, personalization, immediate gratification and informality. They believe authority and respect are earned, they are not scared of failure and have a global mindset.
  • Generation Y, also known as Millennials, have five major milestones, including completing studies, leaving home, becoming financially independent, getting married and having/or not having children. In the 21st century things are different. There is choice, for example, getting married later in life or continuing your studies. In 1960, 77% of women and 65% of men had reached all five milestones by 30. In 2010, 13% of women and 10% of men had done so by 30. Millennials are influenced by the internet, global villages, 9/11 and climate change. Their defining values include a veneer of confidence, they are techno literate, desperate to belong, globally aware and need to know "why".

“Baby Boomers are running the world, but the world is getting older and older. We have to wait for the younger generation to become leaders. Today's young people are different. They view the workplace and authority differently and are influenced by technology,” said Codrington.

Bridge the communication gap

This generational shift has an impact on the workplace, as every generation has different leadership and behavioral styles. For organizations and managers, they need to leverage the unique strengths of each generation and bridge the communication gap.

During the panel discussion Sneyd (Generation X) stated that, “We have a different way of communicating and conveying messages and it is difficult because we grew up differently.”

“Authority and respect are earned,” said Schrijver (Generation X).

As a Millennial, Narainsamy mentioned that she came into the industry to drive change. “I think that the pace of change and innovation is what will keep young people in the industry.” She then went on to state that as a Millennial, she prefers to be given task instruction and then the independence to be left alone, to complete it. “Give us tasks, explain it once and let us complete the tasks independently.”

Panelists describe Millennials as outspoken, look at things differently, a good generation to bring about change and Baby Boomers kind, open and often times over nurturing. Generations X and Y often view change as a vehicle for new opportunities. Baby Boomers were perceived as more reserved, while generation Y tend to favor more collaborative and in-person means of interacting.

Find value in both and balance it out

“Generational differences are good. It is good to be different, we can all learn from each other and get the best out of our teams when we come together collaboratively. The benefit of diversity, beyond frustration, is that we can see the world differently and come up with better solutions. There is strength and weaknesses in all generations, we just have to find value in both and balance it out,” Codrington pointed out.

“Be aware of generational differences but avoid generational bias. Create opportunities for cross-generational mentoring. Tap into the wisdom and experience of your team. Understand and get the most out of people of different generations. Own your past, know your generations and choose your future,” concluded Codrington.

A charitable cause

As customary, members were asked to bring along a R100 contribution for the nominated charity, the Tomorrow Today Foundation.

Tomorrow Today Foundation’s community philanthropy involves local people making a difference through the well-structured and focused giving of time, money and skills.

We would like to thank each one of you for your donation.

Lucky draws

A few lucky ladies walked away with prizes donated by sponsors. We would like to thank the sponsors who contributed to the prizes.

  • Allianz - sponsored one bottle of Moet Champagne
  • Beyonda - sponsored a Woolworth’s voucher to the value of R1 500
  • Chubb - sponsored a Sandton City voucher to the value of R1 000
  • Glasfit – sponsored two hampers with a blanket, cap, cooler bag and rubix cube
  • Hollard – sponsored a sorbet voucher
  • Hollard - Oojah – sponsored a lunch bag, pen and mouse pad
  • MUA Insurance – sponsored three Stoneglow Diffusers valued at R500 each
  • O’Keeffe & Swartz -    sponsored one bottle of Moet Champagne valued at R550
  • PG Glass - Sponsored two leather bags from Boots & Rall
  • Standard Bank – sponsored a Carrol Boyes glass sugar bowl with a spoon to the value of R400
  • Tracker – sponsored a portable smoothie blender

Thank you

GWII would like to thank main sponsor Marsh, and co-sponsor BAIR Insurance Recruitment, for their sponsorship and support for this event. Without them this would not have been possible.

And lastly, to all GWII members thank you for attending this event. We hope that you gained key insights into how we can leverage the unique strengths of each generation and bridge the communication gap and thank you for attending.

See photos here