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Multigenerational and multitalented

BISMARCK - Kara Thomas, a teller at the Wells Fargo bank near Gateway Mall, has come to appreciate her new, full-time "family." She's working her first full-time job, surrounded by varying generations of experience and differences ready to help h...

BISMARCK - Kara Thomas, a teller at the Wells Fargo bank near Gateway Mall, has come to appreciate her new, full-time "family." She's working her first full-time job, surrounded by varying generations of experience and differences ready to help her learn and grow.

As part of the millennial generation, that's truly what Thomas values in her job: learning and growing.

Her boss, Derek Weigel, has learned to recognize what the millennials under his supervision need, and to value that perhaps Thomas' needs in the workplace are different from baby boomer Carla Simpfenderfer's, who's been with Wells Fargo for 27 years.

"Generation Y'ers are very willing to advance, to move up fast," Weigel said.

For Simpfenderfer, consistency and stability is key.

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"The fast movement was not as important as it is today," she said. "Stability was important."

Weigel manages three out of today's four living generations at his bank; Five baby boomers, four Generation X'ers and seven Generation Y's, or millennials.

Like many companies, Weigel is seeing and embracing the benefits and challenges of managing not only individual diversity, but generational differences.

It's not uncommon to see all four generations represented in today's workplace, with boomers tending to have the most presence, said Robin Thorstenson, a trainer through the Bismarck State College's Continuing Education Training and Innovation Division. Thorstenson has given presentations on generational diversity, among other things.

Having four such diverse generations may not even be difficult to manage, as long as supervisors can recognize the difference in motivations and values.

"Whenever you're managing people, you have to remember that these are individuals," Thorstenson said. "It helps to know what lens they're looking through."

Motivational factors may be significantly different, she said.

"In all honesty, all people are motivated, but why they're working may be a little different," she said.

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So-called traditionalists were born from 1922-23, and Thorstenson said most company practices were put in place by them. Now other generations may be challenging those systems.

Baby boomers, born from 1943-44 to the early '60s, tend to identify themselves by their jobs. Simpfenderfer, who's worked at area Wells Fargo banks for nearly 30 years, is the perfect example. The boomers are willing to spend a lot of time in their job, and willing to work until the job is done.

Weigel, the bank manager, said he's noticed that his baby boomers and older Gen-X'ers tend to be very thorough.

Thorstenson said Gen-X'ers, born in the early '60s to about 1980, are a work-to-play generation. They work so they can go out and do fun stuff, but they tend to be very efficient.

Millennials, born from 1980 to 2000, on the other hand, tend to work in a way that's meaningful to them, Thorstenson said.

"They really don't like busy work, they're willing to blend their personal life into their work life," she said. It's called an "integrated life," one where family, work and personal lives intermingle throughout the day.

As for goals, boomers are ladder-oriented, only making career changes or job changes if it moves the boomer into a significantly better position. On the other end of the spectrum, millennials tend to expect to move up fast or make parallel career changes.

"They are conducting what they call parallel careers, moving from career to career, job to job, that are related and not necessarily upward in a particular manner," Thorstenson said. "They're getting the breadth of this business, they're able to understand this business from a lot of different perspectives."

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Gen-X'ers are in between, wanting to move up, or move into a better situation. Typically, with two boomers to every Gen-X'er in any given company, X'ers may have to go off on their own before opportunities open within their company _ one reason a lot of start-up businesses are begun by Gen-X'ers, Thorstenson said.

While understanding motivating factors for employees is key, understanding each generation's strengths can maximize work force efficiency.

Boomers are hard workers and carry years of knowledge; Gen-Xer's are efficient and relatively tech-savvy; millennials are tech-savvy multitaskers who learn fairly quickly. The strengths and opportunities of each generation balance the work force.

Weigel says he sees that kind of supportive collaboration in the bank every day, which, ultimately, supports the customers.

"The biggest thing is, we have a lot of different people to help people from all generations," Weigel said.

Ultimately, Thorstenson said, employers should focus on results and not on how much or how long employees are working, and not just on a daily basis. And employers also should recognize that most companies can easily offer things that every generation wants or needs.

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