Improving Communication between Generations
Each generation is different in important ways, but we can work to close the widening generational gap in the welding industry and revitalize the working relationships that are in critical need of repair.
As a new year begins, we continue to find ourselves making significant efforts to improve and stabilize our lives. I believe we all agree that our primary focus should be on relationships in every aspect of our lives, including our welding industry relations.
I retired from the welding supply industry after 42 years. Throughout that period, I did not see the disparity and challenges that now inhibit us from having a united front. Each generation has a unique perspective on work/life balance, communication styles, learning, and business beliefs. I took a deep dive into the generational differences and realized we are lacking the skills to help bring unity within the welding industry and in relationships in general. My desire is to open lines of communication between the generations, which will allow each of us to look inside ourselves and then begin to effectively open new doors and close the gap. I believe that before the boomers and Gen Xers retire, we can hand off the baton to the next generations so we do not lose ground in the race to succeed.
I am hopeful that each of us will do our own research and determine ways to support each other for a much smoother path. Listed below is a condensed segment from my research on each generation.
-Baby boomers are the best-educated generation in history and received peak levels of income. They stay in jobs to make an impact, take on important things, and shake things up.
-Generation X is smaller than boomers and millennials. Gen Xers are individualistic, independent, resourceful, and self-sufficient and value freedom and responsibility in the workplace. They are more willing to change jobs and strive for work/life balance.
-Millennials have developed work characteristics and tendencies from doting parents, structured lives, and contact with diverse people. They are also one of the tech-savviest generations and attended postsecondary institutions more than any other generation. They are renting or sharing rather than buying, and they are waiting till later in life for major life milestones, such as marriage. Millennial workers want to hit the ground running and see the impact their work makes on the company's bottom line.
-Both the September 11 attacks and the Great Recession have influenced the attitudes of Generation Z in the United States. Since even the oldest members of Generation Z were young children or not yet born when the 9/11 attacks occurred, there is no generational memory of a time when the United States was not at war with the loosely defined forces of global terrorism. Some have suggested that growing up through this has given this generation a feeling of unsettlement and insecurity.
As we seek ways to connect across all generations, there is a common theme of values that matters most to workers of every age and can be applied to the welding industry: Recognize but do not dwell on differences. The traditionalist who will not ever retire; the boomer mystified by Facebook; the cynical Gen Xer who's only out for himself; the millennial who wears flip-flops in the office; and the Gen Zer who appears surgically attached to the smartphone. These types of stereotypes are not true. There is no evidence to show that a 35-year-old manager today is any different from a 35-year-old manager of a generation ago. Everyone just wants to be respected and feel like they are being listened to. We should create opportunities for mentoring and helping members of different generations coach and support one another. This will build collaborative relationships and create a platform for exchanging ideas. I believe that each of us also wants to understand the big picture. I am looking forward to a mutually rewarding 2023 and will be making every effort to help close the relational gap, which in turn closes the welding gap.
This article was written by Dennis K. Eck (AWS president) for the American Welding Society.