Take a minute to think about the people in your office: Your director, your supervisor, your administrative specialist, your IT coordinator, your counterpart. More than likely, you have a couple, if not a few, different generations working within your own team. And that’s something to celebrate!
In December 2018, the County of San Diego’s workforce was comprised of:
3.2 percent Post-Millennials (or Generation Z)
39.8 percent Millennials
39.9 percent Generation Xers
16.8 percent Baby Boomers
0.2 percent employees from the Silent/Greatest Generation
“For the first time, we’ve got five generations working side by side,” said Carmina Vasquez, president of the Emerging Workforce Association.
The EWA is one of many employee resource groups here at the County. The group was created by millennials to help bridge the generational gap and recently hosted its “inaugural signature event to honor generational diversity in the workplace.” Not only was this event to celebrate generational diversity, but it was also a chance for said generations to learn a thing or two about each other.
As part of the event, a panel of notable County employees that represented different generations spoke on topics ranging from legacy to common misconceptions of each respective generation:
Andrew Strong, CAO Chief of Staff, identifies as a “cusper” or between Gen X and millennial.
Don Steuer, Assistant Chief Administration Officer/Chief Operating Officer, identifies as a Baby Boomer
Nadia Moshirian Binderup, CAO Staff Officer, identifies as a millennial
Marvin Mayorga, Management Fellow with the Probation Department, identifies as a millennial
“First of all, when you think of Boomers, you think of people who are work-centric, goal-oriented,” said panelist Steuer. “And the misconception of it is we’re inflexible or unwilling to listen to other opinions or new opinions or creative ideas. But I feel like that couldn’t be further from the truth. In a way, Boomers feed off the younger generations.”
Millennial panelist Moshirian Binderup quashed the misperception of her generation’s constant need for affirmation.
“I constantly get teased about the ‘gold star’ for any type of recognition,” she said. “We don’t need those physical awards – we thrive off guidance. We love teamwork.”
Steuer was quick to interrupt and ask Nadia if she could provide some technical guidance to Strong, who was having microphone difficulties during the event.
“See? Millennials aren’t tech savvy,” quipped Strong.
The playful nature between the different generations was testimony to just how complementary different generations can be to each other. Each panelist brought in different perspectives regarding leaving a legacy at the County and the definition of “emerging,” and yet they shared a common thread when it came to their words of wisdom for their fellow employees regardless of generations – embrace shared wisdom.
“Find a mentor who’s in this organization,” said Strong. “Or be a mentor! Share that knowledge and institutional knowledge you have.”
Mayorga, who’s been with the County just two years, was a bit modest when sharing his advice.
“I laugh because I’m so young and new to the County,” he said. “But I encourage people in my generation to have patience. Opportunities come and go, and sometimes we need to remind ourselves that every step we take is one step closer to what we’re working toward – patience is very key.”
His sentiment is one shared by all of the panelists, who spoke throughout the event to the importance of learning from others and from your experience to help you grow inside an organization.
“It comes down to the journey of leadership. There are three primary components to that. One is talent, which we all have, one is wisdom, which we continue to gain, and one is influence, which some of us never reach,” Steuer said, gaining chuckles from the audience. “But I think it’s important to remember when emerging – you have the talent, and now you have to continue to grow and take personal responsibility to gain that wisdom to be able to influence not only the culture of our organization but also the decisions that are made regardless of what level of the organization you represent.”