- On May 20, 2014
If one of the foundations of an effective team is a shared purpose, how do you create that synergy when your workforce shows up with vastly different views of their relationship to work?
Stan, the 72-year-old Executive VP for Strategy, has been with the company for over 40 years. He has been the catalyst for keeping the company competitive through thick and thin times. Their new owner knows nothing about their core business and seems intent on doing away with it. Stan is ready to make the case as to why it is still a viable and trusted service.
Paul, the 55-year-old Operations Manager, notorious for being first in and last out of the office, expects immediate answers to even the most seemingly inconsequential questions, no matter the day or night. “Don’t feel you have to stay just because I’m working late,” he tells his direct reports. Yet the ones who get the nod for advancement are the ones who physically attend his impromptu end of workday meetings.
Connie, the 38-year-old department chief, often leaves the office at 5. She is working online after 9PM, and especially early in the morning when she feels freshest and most productive. Although she is clocking 10+ hours a day just like everyone else, her boss passes on recommending her for promotion, feeling that she has other priorities that may prevent her from giving her full attention to the demands of a more senior position.
Jess, the 27-year-old associate, is bored by the mundane tasks she’s been given. She knows the background work she’s been assigned is important to the overall product and thinks there is a much more effective way to do it that will cut the cycle time, and she also has ideas for enhancements. If she could just get someone to listen to her. Instead she’s told to “Stay in your lane,” and “Someday you’ll understand the big picture and know why that idea won’t work.”
How can you create an environment where these disparate work views work effectively together?
Step 1: Acknowledge generational differences.
To have a smoothly functioning workforce, differences must be acknowledged and appreciated. This gives voice to the ‘elephant in the room.’ By treating this potentially ‘hot topic’ non-judgmentally, it helps everyone understand the question of ‘where’s he/she coming from?” Individuals are unique and not everyone lines up against ‘typical’ norm.
Here are some great reports that provide an overview of ‘typical’ generational considerations and provide a foundation for an open discussion:
- AARP, Leading a Multi-Generational Workforce
- Boston College, Center for Work & Family, The Multi-Generational Workforce: Management Implications and Strategies for Collaboration
- Pew Research Report, Millennials: Understanding Generation Next
Step 2. Then ignore generational differences.
The more important issue is your company vision, mission, and its customers. If you can get everyone excited about creating the best product and the best customer experience– and do it by purposefully including diverse experiences and engaging individual’s unique strengths–then generational differences bring a ‘unique perspective’ instead of a ‘bone of contention.’
Are there ‘typical’ generation traits you see manifested in your workforce? How do you entice the best engagement from your multi-generational workforce?