By Wendy Sarubbi | February 10, 2014 12:41 pm

The UCF College of Medicine event was filled with students, faculty and staff, some of whom had grown up with at TV hero like Roy Rogers, while others were fans of “The Terminator.” Those generational differences – and the values they have instilled in each individual– were the focus of the college’s first -in a year-long series of “Lunch and Learns” promoting diversity and inclusion.

Ken Beller, president and co-founder of Near Bridge Inc., a company specializing in making organizations more inclusive, spoke January 29 on general differences. He opened his presentation by speaking several different foreign languages, from Spanish to Mandarin. “We find that generations are like a language,” Beller said. “If you don’t understand how people are actually seeing the world from their perspective, you really can’t communicate with them in a way that they best understand things.”

Beller classified workplace generations into five different populations, each with their own value systems.

  • Patriots (whose key trait is Loyalty). The patriot generation grew up in the Great Depression, and is sometimes referred to as “the greatest generation.” Experiencing the largest financial downturn in U.S. history and two World Wars groomed them for fierce loyalty to country.
  •  Performers (Passion). Performers, also known as the “baby boomer generation,” grew up largely during the rise of Hollywood movie and TV culture. That new form of artistic expression influenced this generation to be more expressive in their work.
  • Techticians (Logic). This group came of age during the dawn of space exploration and scientific innovation in America. They often approach tasks with a very technical point of view. Measurement is a key focus of this age group.
  • Believers (Harmony). This group looks back on the early 1980s for their childhood memories, and they often reflect the optimism and hope of the American Dream that came after the civil and women’s rights movements.
  • Transformers (Power). Transformers grew up in the early 1990s, and tend to be more aggressive in their approach. Born after the “Believer” generation that idealizes the American dream, this generation is ready to fight for that dream.
  • Owls (Wisdom). This is the youngest generation entering the workforce right and many are still college or high school aged. Growing up with mythical stories like the Harry Potter series, this generation seeks wisdom and experience.

Beller encouraged participants to look at the world through their co-workers’ eyes to better communicate across generations. Generations may be motivated by strikingly different factors — logic, passion, harmony or power. He emphasized that acknowledging our differences can lead to a better working relationships and more effective communication.  “Generational differences are often hidden in plain sight, because we think we’re all the same, but we’re really not,” Beller said. “It’s really important that people use this information to be more inclusive within their environment based on generations.”

Many audience members were current or future physicians, and Beller noted that a better understanding of generational diversity could improve patient care because doctors who relate better to their patients are more effective in treating them.

The goal of the “Lunch and Learns” is to help faculty, staff and students better understand, communicate and engage in an ever-changing world. Participants who attend at least four of the six sessions and make a presentation to the college’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion will have the opportunity to be recognized as a “Diversity Champion.”

“We’re demonstrating that diversity is a core value here at the College of Medicine,” said Dr. Lisa Barkley, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion. “In order to embody that, we have to increase our skills and use them around the workplace.”

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