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Guest Commentary: Gray Matter, Matters … In Fact, We All Matter

It is my professional and personal opinion that successful organizations blend their workforce with millennials and seasoned, experienced employees. People with gray hair matter. Getting different generations to work together is paramount for the success of the organization.

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John Passante is a broad-based senior executive with over 30 years of extensive organizational development and senior human resource experience with progressive corporations involved in multiple locations, both domestic and international.

Photo credit: iStock.com/EtiAmmos

It is exciting to witness the positive impact millennials are having on our industry. Each day they bring a spirit of creativity, probing for answers, questioning the status quo, teaching us new ways to utilize technology and seeking to make a difference – and to be noticed. 

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They breathe new life into an organization and company cultures. It is exciting to listen to their fresh ideas and perspectives. I like the fact that they challenge all of us. The key is to give these bright, educated, qualified young people the right opportunities and support. We all benefit. The fact is, there are more millennials than boomers now, according to the Pew Research Center. In most cases, millennials learn technology quickly, and implement technology faster than some legacy employees. (Gray hairs like me) 

Of course, they grew up using computers, smart phones, the Internet and social media. Another advantage of hiring millennials, is that they are eager to learn. Essentially, they are a blank slate. They come without bad habits and are open to change and new approaches.

It has been my experience that they are persistent, a professional way. And ask a lot of questions, which I enjoy. The “WHY” results in better decisions. Millennials are intrinsically motivated. They hunger for growth and success; they are the real deal. Genuine and value positive progress. 

Our industry is ever-changing, and millennials think outside the box. They are the “we generation” and collaboration turns them on. They are like detectives; they are always searching for the answer and are quite tenacious. They bring an optimistic point of view to the workplace. Indeed, the millennials are ready to be champions of change in the automotive aftermarket and seek:

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• A balance between professional and personal life. 

• A career mentor, not a “boss”

• An inclusive and positive company culture

• To be involved and recognized for their collaboration.

It is my professional and personal opinion that successful organizations blend their workforce with millennials and seasoned, experienced employees. People with gray hair matter. Getting different generations to work together is paramount for the success of the organization. As with any relationship, it is important that both groups value and learn from each other. Companies can form cross-functional teams, which provides the opportunity for each group to know each other. The more contact the better. As a result, misconceptions will start to evaporate learning together can be fun. 

Mentoring is a two-way street. The senior, experienced employee can take technical advice from millennials, and the gray matter employee can share their career experiences with the millennials – and their street smarts. (As a gray-haired aftermarket veteran, I need help understanding and making sense of social media. My grandchildren rescue me!)

Different viewpoints and ideas spark innovation and open the lines of communication and trust. Each generation is an integral part of any thriving and successful organization. It is critical to NOT stereotype employees, to allow the organization to build collaboration. None of us prosper and succeed alone. Differences indeed count and make us stronger. 

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Wisdom comes in all sizes and shapes and ages and background. Experienced employees can be valued for sage advice, a source of timeless truths and tales of the aftermarket and display “social judgment,” the ability to read situations and people, and discern the right course of action, to guide millennials when it is time to put on the brakes, in times of haste. Indeed, experience comes with age. Wisdom can be defined as judicious behavior, behavior born of knowledge (gray matter) imbued with thoughtfulness, reflection, life and business experience and compassion! 

With the blending of ages, education and life experiences, the ultimate goal is to foster acceptance and understanding and to accept each other respectfully, accept personal traits and to be authentic with each other. Respect fosters true trust. It is unconditional and it validates all parties. The more an employee is secure in their own acceptability, the more they are motivated and committed. Thus, they become more self-confident, which results in higher performance. 

In life and in business, it is important that we celebrate each other. 

Gray matter! Gray hair! Old hair! We all matter! And need each other. 

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