The average age at alter expo is 41,96. This is approximately the crossover point between ‘Generation X’ and the ‘Millennials’. In other words, both generations are equally represented in the company. With both, there are pros and cons, with both there are weaknesses, and you can learn from both. How do we achieve that? As always, smoothly and with a lot of casualness.
#EHBA vs. EHBA
Although Generation X are seen as the binding link in the workplace, they would play this down. That's how they are: modest and sober. They are practical and self-sufficient. Because yes, in our database, which we've called Arnout, they have each found their own working method. Unfortunately, this is not always so clear for millennials. For Gen X, the course in First Aid With Arnout [EHBA, in Dutch] doesn't always seem easy, though they do their best! However, we couldn't be without them. They like sharing their years of experience with us, and they are justifiably proud of doing so. And we cannot deny that each and every one of them is a hard worker! Conversely, us millennials don't need the EHBA course, as we have grown up with IT. But we do love fun, so are happy to take part in this crazy EHBA for our “oldies”. Our lives are somewhat busier, for one thing because we're keeping everyone on Instagram updated about what we're all working on: #EHBA! But we're very happy to help Gen X, and we love having a good partnership with them. When doing this, we must be careful not to become too overconfident...and sometimes to listen more than we talk.
Modest? Sober? Perhaps, but it's our insights and findings that are talked about most often. Not only work-related, but in other matters too: “How do you cook sweet potato?”, “How do you read a water meter?”, or “How do you clean your sneakers?”. No longer secrets for our staff how to make croque monsieurs and spaghetti puttanesca. Gen X at your service.
GIF vs. Telex
Since we all have to work longer, there are more generations than ever before in the workplace. That requires some tolerance. I think that it's good here in this regard, precisely because we have a right balance between the two generations. One of our favourite things to do over lunch is to list old things that Gen X have fond (or less fond) memories of, but which millennials have no understanding of. Such as the “beeper”, for example, which was used to let someone know that they had to call you. Can you imagine anything more complicated? Later, there was only one mobile phone shared among different users. Insane! There were also no computers at one time, but instead they had Telex—please don't ask for an explanation! Today there are things that millennials like to show off about: Payconiq, cookies, Bitmoji, Swarm, GIF, … (we will spare you the explanations). With us, everything is in English, which can sometimes sound like Chinese to our Gen Xers—though ‘telex’ sounds like Chinese to me! 我不明白!
For me, as part of Gen X, those English words definitely don't sound Chinese, though their meanings and the objectives do! And yes, if we get nostalgic and talk about how things were at the beginning of our career, we are looked at with confusion. The first CRM tool I learned about was an "index card box", there were registers with incoming and outgoing invoices, we worked with the “carbonless copy method” when doing the books, took minutes in shorthand – the Aimé Paris method, which really was Chinese – learned typing on manual typewriters, typed blind and fast, our word per minute rate was timed, and so on.
If we trace from those methods until now, it's easily to see that we have undergone a huge journey, and are still on a journey. We are switching gradually, having not picked it up when we were young, and we certainly don't show off about it!
Now I feel like I'm living in a SF series from the '70s or '80s: we can see each other when we call, we can watch TV anywhere we want on one smart device or the other, cars practically drive themselves, fridges talk, and lights and heating are switched on and off with voice commands. All this sometimes makes me a bit nervous. Do aliens exist then?
Leopard print vs. Leopard print
Many things like GPS and Google make life easier and more pleasant. Yet a bit of quiet sometimes does no harm! Every so often, having a day when you cannot be reached…fantastic, right? Or a day not stuck in a traffic jam? Unimaginable! Millennials are slowly understanding this and sometimes try to get some quiet through yoga or mindfulness. They can do this together with Generation X, because they need some energy to deal with the fast pace of work and the many changes that are happening. And there are other things that we can do together too: shopping, for instance. Sometimes Gen X's attire—sneakers and leopard print—is hipper than what millennials wear, even if it has been sitting in their wardrobes for years (after all, everything comes back into fashion!). Being less hip is not good for millennials' online image. But this is how we look at it: the Gen Xers have no online image themselves, because for them privacy comes above all else … which perhaps in itself is something to be jealous of?!
It's not actually true that this comes from my Gen X wardrobe. My wardrobe is full of serious clothes, and I'm not that into “vintage”. I'm not V, rather a conscious X that when it comes to clothes differs little from a millennial. 30 years ago, it was unthinkable to wear jeans and sneakers to work. Suits were our uniform!
There are definitely shared characteristics across generations, but each member of the team has their own strengths and weaknesses. This can lead to disagreements, swearing and hilarity. Yet, we should add that this is true for all generations, and what's important is to respect each other and realise that our strength is that we have all the requisite qualities to be alter expo. Now, let's wait to see what Generation Z brings to the party…