Crossing the generation gap

Combining wise owls and young blades makes for a productive and cost-effective team

Combining wise owls and young blades makes for a productive and cost-effective team

Bob Tunmore


It is a recurring theme in IT that as people grow older they become less valuable to the industry. Companies that adopt this attitude are in danger of missing a trick.

Experience is an advantage, and one that the older employee has over the younger worker. Young guns may have the enthusiasm that is important when identifying leads and new ideas, but these people do not necessarily have the knowledge to make best use of these opportunities and identify the best leads.

Too many younger employees take a fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants approach to making decisions. Many lack the experience to justify and support their judgements and, at times, enthusiasm can override practicality.

People learn from failures as well as successes. By accumulating this knowledge, staff can be more confident in their decisions, help qualify leads and increase their organisation's chances of success.

By learning from past mistakes, employees can also pick up a wide range of skills along the way - skills which not only enable them to learn new tricks but also help them to identify the ones that do not work. Problems can be identified and solved more quickly without having to re-invent the wheel each time.

Getting it right first time can save large sums of money and improve productivity. It is also crucial when speaking to customers. Many companies make the mistake of only hiring young and enthusiastic sales reps who want to achieve sales targets and are motivated only by commission.

Customers today are not interested in the hard sell. They do not just need advice on products or services, they want to be confident that the information provided comes from an in-depth knowledge of the industry - a value added service which few younger employees are capable of delivering.

Understanding your clientele is one of the keys to success. The older generation has had years of liaising with clients and building relationships. However, by managing this knowledge effectively companies can ensure that their younger staff benefit from colleagues with more experience.

One way is to establish an enterprise-wide central customer database. Staff across all departments can gain access to accurate, up-to-date customer details. This information can be anything from the products purchased and previous complaints or queries to hobbies and interests. All of this is crucial information to help gain a better understanding of individual customers and to create windows of economic opportunity.

There are always the company time-servers who have been around for years, jealously guarding their territory and living in fear of the young upstart who they see as being after their job - perhaps mirroring their own entry into the workplace

But wise heads can help guide and develop their proteges, given the chance.

You are only too old if you have stopped learning. The sensible employer will blend youthful enthusiasm with seasoned experience. The sensible older employee will seize the opportunity this breeding affords.

Bob Tunmore, director of customer development for the Interchange Group

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