Co-authored by Joachim Stein and Bert Schulze
My name is Joachim Stein. I work as Product Manager in the SAP S/4HANA Cloud Product Management, within the End2End Experience team. In this role, I push scope enhancements for and ensure quality of our SAP S/4HANA Cloud solution including continuous improvement. Actually, I am member of Generation X.
Adding and combining different points of view in a series about cross generations at the workplace is the perfect way for me to share my point of view.
When I decided to contribute to this series, I first had to google the differences and the definitions of generations to make myself familiar with the public discussion. Reflecting about my normal work day, I never actively thought about the age of my working colleagues so far. And that I did not recognize any specific generation related issue. Performance and reliability is my main criteria. Nevertheless, I am happy to share my experience with you.
SAP is my 3rd employer. After my study of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Saarland, I started my career as developer in a small development company focusing on individual software solutions. In my next position I worked as Development Manager in a mid-size company, focused on standardized CRM solutions. In 2002, I joined SAP and worked in various roles, like Development, Industry Release Management, Central Modelling, S/4HANA On-Premise and Cloud Product Management.
28 years of professional experience and a huge variety of projects and programs later, I can ensure you that the differences in cooperating with various generations sound much bigger on paper than they are in reality. Specifics are in the details, but not in the main characteristics.
Let´s look into the details…
My working location is SAP Sankt Ingbert, which is around 1,5 h away from SAP´s HQ in Walldorf by car. I am used to work at least two days a week in Walldorf, as my team is mainly located there and peers as well as our leadership team is centered around our HQ. Even if, most of the work is done in virtual collaboration and I am not forced to travel, I consider the personal relationship as very important and walking on the HQ´s corridors is more efficient than email conversation. Face-to-face conversation beats any well written email by far.
During a normal day, I use all available tools to boost my work and run projects as efficient as possible. Projects with global participation runs virtual by design, leveraging skype, email and virtual collaboration rooms.
Looking at the next generation colleagues, I experience that they use much more the chat communication and it seems to feel more natural to them, given the fact they leapfrogged my own first communication experience phone and email afterwards. For me it was a win-win situation from the beginning and the more I worked with Generation Y colleagues, the more they influenced my communication style. These days, I almost use chat several times a day for short fast information exchange.
Generation Y does not know, Generation Y goes Google!
It is obvious that Generation Y people could not have the same experience as longer lasting colleagues, but in this fast-changing digital world, change is the only constant anyway. There are many new applications and technology to explore and understand every day, that the speed of change and the implicated motivation to learn:
- needs to be built in if you want to be successful
- makes the ability to adopt faster more important than the ability to remember
- makes the most important tool from yesterday outdated immediately.
Being with SAP since 2002, I worked and still work with many people from Generation Y and all I met were outstanding well educated, interested in the job and looking for challenges to learn and grow.
What changes with the above: In my first years, I spend hours and days on the SAP Intranet and Portals and checked with hundreds of people on relevant internal pages for information. Today, Google beats – often even for internal information, other ways of searching by far. It is THE appropriated engine and it is omnipresent for all colleagues to start the research.
Work Life Balance
Working in the middle of my second decade at SAP, I flirted several times with work-time reduction. As a good corporate citizen and with the motivation I always had to get the workloads off my table but also with the financial pressure, those flirts mostly disappeared as soon as they came. For my entire working life, I prioritized work over my private life. My motivation was my firm believe on the dependencies of interesting, well paid work and self-confidence as well as my personal satisfaction. I think that many Generation X people might fall into the same trap. When I consume statements about Generation Y and their ambition to better balance than the previous generations I wish all of them good luck and that they might have more success than I had.
Loyalty and Engagement
I read statements that Generation Y workers are not as loyal as former generations. I do not really have experienced that myself in my teams or with my peer teams. As I laid out earlier, I changed the company twice myself to improve my personal situation. Already two decades ago, people talked about “Job Hopper”, which described people who changed companies every second year. I could not derive that there is nowadays a higher fluctuation or more noise around that topic.
Taking opportunities into account seems to be fair and intelligent to me. I consider everybody lucky who could manage to be on the sunny side of innovative, interesting and meaningful work. I personally experienced sunny and rainy days, which leads me to a frequent check with my teams if work and expectations matches.
When I experienced unengaged or unmotivated people, honestly, this was not based on any generation focus, though the only exception is that people beyond the peak of their career might be more frustrated as they don´t consider an improvement in the career perspective.
Team work appreciated
Generation Y does not like teamwork, they love it. So do I. During some periods in my career I was a lonesome fighter based on workload or based on heterogeneous tasks. Working in a team is not only more convenient but more efficient. Brainstorming to leverage the collective genius of heterogeneous minds and sharing knowledge creates much better results.
For me it feels we are all in one boat. The conversation on generations looks completely overrated to me.
As generations were influenced by the surrounding environment, it is obvious that the digital transformation and the available technical innovations had a significant impact on Generation Y’s life, as they grew up with Internet and mobile communication.
During my childhood and teenager times, television was rolled out and computer as well as mobiles were not available. During my studies, I got my first computer for a fortune. It was an incredible high investment but a must-have 😊. The use of a computer did influence my behavior almost instantly.
Working together across generations has a lot of positive impacts and is a win-win situation for all. Younger people can profit from the longtime experience of senior colleagues, senior people can profit from the easy, informal handling of new technology as those are closely connected with peers and friends and share immediately their newest findings among themselves.
We are looking forward to your comments.
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