While everyone might not possess all of the characteristics typical of their generation, few could argue that they don’t share at least some of the traits of others born in the same time frame. Such traits include similar beliefs, priorities, preferences, buying patterns, communication habits and workplace styles, according to author Jason Dorsey, the chief strategy officer for The Center for Generational Kinetics. An energetic Dorsey kicked off SAS’ Energy Analytics Summit in Houston last month, providing insight into typical behaviors of generations. The talk could not have come at a better time as the oil and gas industry, like many other industries, prepares to lose some baby boomers to retirement. “Gen Y is the fastest-growing generation in this industry,” Dorsey said. “Everybody predicted for years that the boomers were just going to suddenly leave. As we all know that has not happened for a variety of reasons, … but boomers will continue to push back on time commitment.” Dorsey, who has made appearances on 60 Minutes and The View among other TV shows, spoke on ways to solve generational challenges and understand differences. He pointed out that for the first time there are four generations in the workforce and five generations in the marketplace, each with a different view on work. And more often than not, this is creating or has already created collisions, disconnects and conflict in the workplace in areas such as communication, motivation, teamwork, engagement, professionalism and leadership. “If companies do not bridge these generations and embrace their newest generation of frontline employees, their operating costs will go up, their effectiveness will decrease, and both morale and profits will suffer [although anonymous blog postings will go through the roof],” Dorsey wrote in his book titled Y-size Your Business: How Gen Y Employees Can Save You Money and Grow Your Business. “On the other hand, if companies can successfully navigate the dynamics of a multigenerational workforce, in particular Gen Y’s tidal wave-like entry, they can unlock tremendous workplace potential where other companies only unlock infighting.” The generations and the approximate ages are: T, ages 69 and above; B, ages 50 to 68; X, ages 38 to 49; Y, ages 19 to 37; and I, age 18 and younger. Often referred to as “the Gen Y Guy,” Dorsey focused mainly on Generation Y but also touched briefly on the other generations, which outnumbered the youngsters in the room. Here are some insights he shared based on research from the center. Technology: Generation Y is tech dependent, not tech savvy, and technology must be simple. They don’t necessarily know how technology works, but they can’t live without it, he said. Communication: Gen Y communicates in this order—text, email (subject line determines importance) and social media, which Dorsey said has the highest impact but is the most underutilized in the oil and gas industry. Why hire: Gen Y typically expects to make a difference, even on the first day; naturally challenges the status quo; drives innovation; and looks for something more than money. “Money alone will not attract and keep the best talent, and we have proven it time and time again,” he added. Here is what he had to say about other generations. Generation X: They are naturally skeptical and believe actions speak louder than words. Gen X dislikes workplace surprises (deadlines are important), never wants to be trapped and wants backup plans, making great managers. Dorsey called Gen X the most loyal generation but that loyalty is to individuals—not organizations. Boomers: Baby boomers, he said, define work ethic in hours per week, and hours don’t count “unless they can see you.” This is especially true in the oil patch, he noted. Boomers believe in policies, procedures, steps and protocols. Traditionalists: The traditionalists have strong military connections, grew up around the Great Depression and are OK with delayed gratification. Dorsey also offered these tips for working with Gen Y: • Provide specific examples of the performance expected. Gen Y especially lacks experience, so even showing a photo of business-casual dress to avoid someone showing up wearing a pair of khakis (business) and flip flops (casual) would be helpful. “The language of business means something different by generation and gender,” he said. Gen Y learns best from video, photos and bullet points; • Provide ongoing feedback, not just the annual review. Such feedback can be quick and verbal; and • The first day of work is the most important. So don’t start new hires on Monday, which usually is a high-stress work day, and have some business cards ready. Dorsey seemed to have each generation pegged based on responses to questions posed to the audience. His insight should prove useful in the workplace as everyone adjusts to generational shifts in the workforce. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at email@example.com.
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