The professional development seminar, sponsored by the University Staff Advisory Council and held on Monday afternoon, began with Director of Financial Aid and Associate Director of Student Financial Services Charles Harper giving an overview of his Master of Education thesis, “Bridging the Gap: Examining the Distance Between Generations in Order to Manage A Multi-Generational Workforce,” in which he argued diversity of age in the workplace has been given little attention and managers must understand each generational cohort to be effective leaders.
Harper highlighted qualities of the four generations in the workplace and their parallels to Star Wars trilogy characters. He likened traditionalists to Yoda, baby boomers to Obi-Wan Kenobi, Generation X-ers to Han Solo and millennials to Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.
Composed of representatives from three generations, the panel discussed stereotypes and myths about millennials, such as being trophy kids, having a sense of entitlement and facing difficulties with face-to-face conversations. The panelists agreed that research showed a high value of millennials is helping others, as seen by Belmont students’ enthusiasm for community service, serving learning and social entrepreneurship. They also agreed each generation is known as being self-centered by its older counterparts.
“Our generation is about a cause, and ‘how can I help others?’ The ‘me’ perception is the price we pay for being raised in a technology-friendly environment,” said graduate student Carolina Domingues. “Generalization takes away from opportunities to know us as individuals.”
The panel also discussed using its generational knowledge and varying preferences for communication for each age group to better serve undergraduate and graduate students as well as parents.
“Just having dialogue with our students helps. That is how I connect with them,” said Senior Systems Coordinator Jennifer Ervin, who explained that serving on a hospitality committee for the 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate helped her connect with students and better understand their needs.
“Know names, majors and what they’re doing,” said Assistant Director of Fitness & Recreation Jamie Zeller. “Students also want to know why things are the way they are, behind the policy. They usually don’t agree with the rule, but with the explanation they understand where folks are coming from.”
They also urged staff to handle students with an open mind.
“Stereotypes lead to barriers, and we don’t need barriers in the workplace,” said Meghan Westbury, admissions visit coordinator.