Talkin ‘Bout My Generation

Yesterday the Volunteer Maryland staff and I hosted one of our periodic trainings for our state members. Almost every month out of the service year we facilitate a meeting for the VMCs with sessions on pertinent volunteer management topics. This time around we had a joint training that included the members’ site supervisors. These are individuals at the members’ sites who play a role as guide and mentor throughout the VMCs’ experiences. It was great to not only reconnect with the class as a whole but observe the relationships that have been built over the past 7 months or so. I was really lucky to have a very supportive site supervisor last year and I can see that same connection among many of the VMC/SS pairs this year. Very refreshing, I must say. 🙂
While the training as a whole was an enjoyable time, I especially appreciated the first half. The morning was dedicated to the topic of generational characteristics and the volunteer manager. While many life factors/backgrounds influence the motivations of individuals, there are generational attributes that are important to consider, especially when working with volunteers. Scott Martin, a training consultant with expertise in this area, provided the class with an interesting presentation that challenged our views of not only our volunteers but ourselves.
From the traditionalists (born 1915-1945) to the millennials (born 1982- 2001), each generation has been labelled with a set of particular characteristics that have been found to lead to similar attitudes and values within each group. These attributes may have been influenced by a multitude of factors: current events, life experiences, the way different generations have raised their children (for example, the Boomers are characteristically labelled as having been nurturing, even overly protective, to their Millennial children, and as as a result many Millennials have a higher level of confidence and desire to achieve in comparison to past generations).
So why is this theory relevant to volunteer management? Well, even though volunteers are providing services to an organization and the community, their work is also personally meaningful and should be an experience that they genuinely enjoy. The working and personal relationship between volunteer and coordinator can be much deeper and clearer if the coordinator understands where an individual is coming from. Tailoring a volunteer experience with the consideration of generational characteristics can be quite beneficial for both parties. At the same time, generational characteristics should not be considered the final or only explanation as to how people function but can serve as a valuable tool for a volunteer manager. This perspective has the potential to help a coordinator better adjust their volunteers’ motivations, rewards, supervision, communication, job design, use of technology, and work environment. For example, Gen-Xers (born 1965- 1981) have been found to value pragmatism, fun, informality, self-reliance, techno literacy, and other values. A volunteer coordinator with a Gen-X volunteer might consider giving this individual independent work with no micro-management and a concise explanation as to how tasks will be executed, perhaps through email. Professional development training might also be appealing to this person. 
This conversation caused me to wonder if being a part of the Millennial category had any influence on my decision to join AmeriCorps; civic duty, optimism, and morality are a few of the characteristics associated with my group. Was it just me, a greater generational influence, or both that had some kind of impact? It’s hard to say but I think I’ll continue looking into this subject. Do you relate to your generation’s list of traits? Or do you feel that your life choices have not been influenced by general, collective influences and categories?


2 thoughts on “Talkin ‘Bout My Generation

  1. Pingback: Of French Fries and Tater Tots « Volunteer Maryland

  2. Pingback: Of French Fries and Tater Tots | HandsOn Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s