Hey Baby Boomers. You Are NOT Team Players

I have just learned that I belong to a generation that seems to be causing no end of trouble for everyone else in the world. Certainly for Generation X and Y. Put simply, they think we have too much of everything. Too much money, so we buy property that freezes out potential first homebuyers condemning them to live in the eternal rent cycle. We have too many assets, we get way with too many superannuation lurks and perks. I can say all of this, because absolutely none of it applies to me. I wouldn’t have two beans to rub together. Living off the old age pension, will be the life for me. I changed jobs a lot. Didn’t have a proper superannuation fund etc etc. Anyway, that is another story.

What I find remarkable is the assertion, that yet another black mark should be added to Generation Baby Boomer. When it comes to the workplace, and let’s face it there are still a large number of my generation who abandoned thoughts of retirement, long ago, they are lone wolves and not team players.

The 21st Century workplace, is a different beast these days, according to market research that has just been published. It’s all about being touchy-feely, hot-desking (sounds obscene) and butcher’s paper brainstorming. Older workers are apparently not into any of this. Not only are they not into it, their non- participation could actually be causing a problem in terms of lowering worker productivity.

A recent study by the accountancy behemoth, Deloitte, found that unlocking what it described as the ‘power of collaboration’ added $46 billion to the Australian economy with the potential to add another $10 billion if companies embrace and encourage the trend. Now, I recognise that this applies in an Australian context but you can take it as read, the same is happening all over the world.

Deloitte claims it’s being driven by big advances in technology making it easier than ever for employees to communicate and work together on projects, either in the office or from home.

The trend was reinforced by global Human Resources firm, Randstad, in its latest, quarterly Workmonitor survey, which found that two thirds of workers say they spend more time collaborating with colleagues than they did five years ago.

But things got a bit messy and pear shaped when they tried to compare the responses of Generation Y workers, with their Baby Boomer counterparts. Almost two thirds, or 59 percent of Gen Y, who were surveyed say they perform better in teams compared to only 33 percent of Baby Boomers. Collaboration and teamwork are far more important to Generation Y than it is for the grey nomads they share the workplace with.

There’s no doubt it’s a generation thing, according to a Randstad company representative who was commenting on their survey. He said workplaces have changed radically over the past 20 years. Technology exists now, where we can share information in real time and Generation Y is clearly the strongest in this area. They have grown up in an education system that focused on collaboration, so group assignments are second nature to them.

Interestingly, Generation X, recorded similar figures. Fifty percent of those surveyed say they perform better in teams. The vast majority, eight five percent of respondents, said they believed that collaboration was now more important than ever with the advances in technology.

The evidence appears to suggest that Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom are lagging behind Asian countries when it comes recognising the importance of working collaboratively in the workplace. In the boom economies of China, India, Hong Kong and Singapore, eighty two percent of workers surveyed said collaboration is not only recognised, it is also rewarded. The general feeling is that there is a lot of catching up to do if we want to be competitive with these countries.

The Randstad company representative offered some advice along with his survey results. He said the best way for businesses to change the way they operate, to encourage collaboration, is to establish the right platforms and lead by example. They need to abandon the idea of measuring performance based on individual effort. To take the sporting analogy, if your team focus is on scoring goals, then you’ll have most of the team obsessed with scoring instead of working together to win the match.

You can have the best salesperson in the world, who sells a lot but if they can’t work with others their value is limited. He or she might achieve their personal goals, but that does precious little in helping their company to grow. But if your sales team is collaborative, shares leads and supports each other, then everyone is working towards achieving a better outcome.

So there endeth the lesson.

Here’s my gratuitous advice to my fellow baby boomers. Chill baby. You know what they say. You are never to old to learn.