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Managing Meetings by Generation

Meetings are the biggest time-waster at work for all generations. But adapting meeting formats to the generational needs of your employees can help minimize some of this impact.

Gen Y looks much like the Boomers before them in their preferences for group discussions and collaborative problem-solving in meetings. Gen X was much maligned by the Boomers for being anti-social in a workplace where Boomers had invented “Management by Walking Around.” Gen Z seems more like their Gen X predecessors in their preference to only have scheduled meetings when necessary. As a result, meetings and collaboration will look different with the different generations. However, your young employees are much more likely to prefer virtual discussions compared to Boomer and Gen X employees.

Don't get me wrong -- Gen Y and Gen Z are very social and want to have opportunities to interact with others. They may just not tolerate sitting still in a room for long periods if they find the meeting unnecessary.

Gen Y, and even more so Gen Z, are more likely to have ongoing GroupMe or WhatsApp discussion groups where the group collaborates on questions and problems in real time more than having longer, scheduled meetings. I have noticed that Gen X and Boomer employees can quickly get overwhelmed by having what seems like never-ending, large-scale discussions that are ongoing rather than having scheduled meetings. Below is a sample summary of what each generation thinks and does when they are assigned to a team project.

Manager: I’d like all of you to work on a launch event for our new product line. We’ll need a full plan with timelines, budgets, vendors and processes by the end of next month.

Boomer response: Let’s all meet to brainstorm how we want to approach this, decide who’s responsible for what, and schedule milestone meetings to keep us on track.

Gen X response: Let me know which part you want me to take care of and I’ll get it done.

Gen Y response: Let’s do an off-site meeting at a restaurant so we can figure out what each of us is interested in doing, and then we can divide the work and keep each other posted on GroupMe. I can create a shared folder in Google Drive and invite everyone to collaborate.

I’ve just formed a WhatsApp chat group so we can share ideas and information as we get it. Some of you didn’t seem to be on WhatsApp yet, so I sent you invitations that you need to accept after you download the app. Once everyone’s online, we can divide the work and schedule a Skype call if necessary to touch base.

As you can see, each generation has different expectations for how meetings and collaboration will work. You will get the best results using a hybrid approach that is established in the beginning to meet everyone’s needs.

  1. Ensure time for team-building that includes food or a fun activity to include Millennials. One of my favorites is to start every meeting with each person having 15 seconds to share one good thing that has happened to them since the last meeting. Use a timer for this activity.

  2. Allow for independent work by establishing clear roles and responsibilities to ensure Gen Y and Gen Z know the limits.

  3. Allow a tool for real-time discussion, such as GroupMe or WhatsApp, but establish limits around how and when it is to be used.

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