Crossing the generation gap

//September 18, 2009

Crossing the generation gap

//September 18, 2009

Workshops aim to smooth relationships between older, younger workers.Keeping the lines of communication open will smooth the generation gaps that arise in the workplace, as the work/life balance desire of young workers clashes with the more traditional work styles of their older colleagues.

That was one conclusion of the panel discussion “Working Across Generations” at the J.H. Cohn Professional Women’s Program conference Thursday, in Teaneck. The program brought 180 women at the firm together for a day of workshops geared to developing women’s leadership at the Roseland-based regional accounting firm.

Mary S. Hartman, director of the Institute of Women’s Leadership at Douglass College at Rutgers University, said the message she hears from workers in their 20s is, “I love my job, but I want them to understand it isn’t my life.”

Baby boomer Marge Perry, president of the Newark-based construction company MZM, said organizations need to embrace the technology familiar to young workers, as it’s now transforming marketing. MZM hired college interns to get the company on track with social networking.

“Our business is growing very well this year because we kicked up our social networking,” she said.

Lucia DiNapoli Gibbons, regional president for northern New Jersey at Wachovia, said her organization is coaching younger workers to become more conversational in their interactions with customers, while encouraging baby boomers to get comfortable with technology.

“And at the end of the day, the way to be effective is to make sure you are pairing employees so they can learn from each other — and then the sky is the limit,” she said.

Louise Mehrotra, vice president, investor relations, at Johnson & Johnson, said the company is committed to offering flexible work schedules, but employees must be flexible and willing to adapt to the needs of the business.

“Flexibility works both ways — I will be flexible with you, but you have to be flexible, also, and step up in those times when we need you,” she said. “It’s a tough message, but if you want the privileges of flexibility, you also have to step up and take the responsibility of flexibility.”

Kimberly Brandley, a partner at J.H. Cohn, said, “A common theme we’re hearing is communication. If we communicate with one another, many times the challenges can be overcome.”

E-mail Beth Fitzgerald at [email protected]