With age comes experience and hard-won knowledge, while youth brings fresh perspective and enthusiasm. No matter the age, every generation has something unique and valuable to offer the work environment. Generation theory claims that by understanding what each age group has to offer, you can identify key business opportunities to align with their unique strengths.
Whether or not you believe in this theory, what certainly is true is that people’s beliefs about how others view their age group – their meta-stereotypes – can interfere with work behaviour.
The way to overcome age stereotyping is through caring and engaging conversation that bridges the perceived generation gaps that are born out of stereotyping. Ongoing and open dialogue can help managers keep their hard-working and experienced employees engaged, happy, and productive for the long haul. Fostering a culture where there is respect and understanding of what each age group brings to the party, as well as an understanding of varying generational needs, helps to translate to happy, engaged employees.
The same applies to customers. Not all customers are created equal and respecting generational diversity amounts to much more than good manners. Awareness, and the ability to communicate across generations is key to good customer service. Taking time to understand customer needs across age groups can be a huge differentiator in the tech market.
In fact, researchers conducted an experiment in which they asked undergraduate students to train someone, or receive training on how to complete a task using Google’s chat function. The perceived age of the trainer and trainees were adapted using photographs and voice modifying software to approximate the age of a 53-year old and a 23-year old. What they discovered is that when the trainers believed they were teaching an older person their expectations were lower and the quality of their training was poor compared with when they believed they were teaching a young person.
Think about the potential consequences of these findings as assumptions of a person’s age can result in reduced professional interaction and ultimately interfere with job performance and business relationships.
Again, open dialogue within your organisation can help here – get people (of different ages) to research and brainstorm about how to communicate with different generations and you may well find that you open the market to a neglected subset of potential customers.
Customers want a genuine connection with authentic, people-driven businesses and brands. They want to engage with companies that care about them and that reflect their concerns and passions. Regardless of what generation they belong to, customers are looking for a good business and brand fit for their personal spend, one with a shared ethos.
This fits in well with Kyocera’s customer-first principle: “We challenged ourselves to become totally committed to our customers' needs, even if it meant rejecting conventional concepts. Making customers happy is a basic value of any business, and the only way to continue earning profits.”