Baby Boomers vs. Millennials to be explored in FRM presentation

The session will examine how EMS chiefs can improve communication with millennials

Fire-Rescue Med session Generational Differences will explore how an understanding of the different age groups can improve communication and training in the fire service.

Baby boomers and Millennials don’t necessary have to agree, but when working side by side in fire departments throughout the country, it helps if they can at least understand where each generation is coming from.

Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell will present Generational Differences at the 2015 FRM conference. Dr. Moore-Merrell is Assistant to the General President for the International Association of Fire Fighters.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding and miscommunication between these two groups,” Moore-Merrell said.

The conference, hosted by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, runs from March 23 – 25. As EMS and fire leaders of all ages gather in Henderson, Nev., Moore-Merrell plans to tackle the differences between each generation’s values, and will demonstrate ways to improve communication, training styles and overall interaction between members of the Baby Boomers, Generation X, the Millennials, and Generation Z, whose members will enter the workforce in the next two years.

Why Baby Boomers and Millennials butt heads

Baby Boomers like to go into work, grab coffee, and sit around the table together. They talk, share stories, and establish a bond that often leads to the feeling of a ‘second family,’ Moore-Merrell said.

Millennials, however, are more likely to be on their smart phones and not sitting at the kitchen table.

“If they’re going to have coffee, they’re not going to have it out of the coffee pot at the station,” she said.

The behavior can seem anti-social to Baby Boomers, but it boils down to the fact that Millennials often see their ‘second family’ as larger and digitally connected. Yet it’s these differences in values that often cause problems when it comes to communication and training, she said.

Training challenges

Millennials, for instance, are more prone to seek out adventures and experiences.

“They get bored quickly if there are not enough training activities,” Moore-Merrell said.  

Her session will be interactive and require members of different generations to work together. For one assignment, she will break attendees into groups of 10 and have them construct a tower using limited materials.

“We see the Millennials being much more of risk takers,” she said. “They build higher, and with less footing and foundation.”

Millennials also believe that everyone should have the same level of respect until they do something to lose it. In their world, everybody gets to play. For Baby Boomers, if you’re good you get to play, if you’re bad you sit on the bench.

The phrase ‘It’s not what you say, but how you say,’ is very important in the communication between the two groups, Moore-Merrell said.

“Millennials are very opinionated about the way you speak to them,” she said.

She often starts out her session using a dice with words on it, and members have to use the word they roll to describe someone they work with.  It may get offensive, but it also helps separate perception from intention, and leads to less judgment and more understanding between the two age groups.

“You get some very interesting interactions right off the bat,” she said.

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