Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Generation Gap

It's been around for as long as I've been alive and I'm pretty sure it's been around forever. We used to call it the "Generation Gap". It often occured during the teen years and then depending on the folks involved, it either grew wider or narrower as we aged.

These days it's more than clothing styles, language, or music tastes. This is from

behavioral_ruined_small.jpgADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — As we continue to evolve as a digital world, rapidly adapting new technology, the way people interact is also changing. Verbal communication is becoming a long lost art, as is people’s comfort level with it. Sending an email, text message, or IM is quick and painless — an efficient (and seemingly safe) way of communicating while avoiding verbal confrontation, rebuttal, or the dreaded small talk.There’s time to sit in front of your electronic device and ponder a clever and witty response. Technology is enabling people to abandon common forms of traditional communication in their everyday life and at work, especially those who have grown up with technology as an accepted norm — rather than a privilege.

According to the Forrester’s July 2008 report, “State of Consumers And Technology: Benchmark 2008,” Generation Y sets the pace for technology adoption and digital, far exceeds any platform of traditional media consumed spending. In a survey of 45,315 North American online adults, people 21–-25 spend an average of 17.6 hours online per week, with 65% of that time for leisure purposes.

They use it for anything and everything — as communication, entertainment, information vehicles, you name it. And being connected has never been easier — given that this generation is already logged onto their IM, created their personal avatar, has their cell phone on at their desk, and has updated the status of their Facebook page with where they are headed to for lunch.

They are truly living their lives online.

And communities such as Second Life make it easier, as do the advent of toys like Webkinz; however, you have to wonder: What is all of this plugging in doing to their interpersonal skills? Gone are the days when children used to actually walk down the street, and knock on the neighbors’ door to see if they want to play a game of kick-the-can before dinner. And forget about getting in trouble for venturing into the sewers with the older kids (wait … was that just me?).

Perhaps there is no place where the preferred method of communication and technology is more obvious than it is at work where following up with a contact to some means sending email after email after email after email. Where do you draw the line of email as a form of communication and not the form of communication?

Working on the media side in advertising, we often negotiate large media buys on behalf of our clients. Due to the fast-pace and flexibility of interactivity, this means media buys, optimizations, and at times, cancels are done quickly to maximize results for our clients. It’s highly unlikely, however, that you’re going to get the best rate or solution to a delivery problem over email.

What I’ve learned is that a five-minute phone call can not only expedite a resolution, but can also do wonders for your professional relationships. On a given day, I average as many as 300 emails in the office, but rarely receive more than three phone calls. I will most likely respond over email, but those who call are the first that I respond to, and if is deemed necessary, a phone call will precede the email.

Nowadays, there are inter-generational relationships in the workplace as veterans and boomers are retiring later, making differences in communication styles even more apparent. Generation Y, growing up surrounded by digital media, has become a generation of expert multi-taskers — listening to the latest edition of Sports Center, IMing a friend about meeting at the gym, gathering screenshots of the latest campaign, and entering an approved plan in DoubleClick MediaVisor while at work.

It’s easy — with all of this multi-tasking going on — for one generation to look down on another. Boomers may think of Generation Y: How can they possibly be productive when they’re connected to technology at every point? And Generation Y may just wonder why Boomers haven’t jumped on the technology bandwagon yet.

There are rules of conduct one can follow to leverage oneself in the workplace and create a higher perception of marketability by looking to other generations. A handwritten note is still thoughtful when someone goes out of their way to provide a special gift or treat. A phone call is necessary when budgets are discussed to avoid confusion and rationale for changes, followed-up by an email to confirm details. However, sending media kits or insertion orders via U.S. mail or fax is not only inconvenient, it does not allow a soft copy to be saved on the shared drive and shared with peers, and it can create the illusion of an old system that needs to be updated.

At the end of the day, regardless of our generation, it’s important, particularly in the workplace, for us to learn from our generational differences and find a happy medium between recognizing the value and timing of reaching out to others via the appropriate human connections, and understanding the day-to-day importance of technological conveniences.

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