Engaging and Developing a Multi-Generational Workforce - Multi-Gen Summit 2012

The Talent Management Alliance held its first Multi-Gen Summit in mid-October in Atlanta to discuss workplace challenges being creating by a changing workforce. Baby Boomers are retiring; Gen Y and Millenials are entering the workforce with new skills and at a pace slower than boomers are leaving, the GenX leadership style and “sandwich managers”, as well as the unique aspects of a multigenerational workforce.

 “Age considers; youth ventures”- Rabindranath Tagore

It’s clear that our world is changing at a pace more rapid than ever. Radical advances in technology, global political shifts, worldwide socio-demographic changes and economic challenges all beget uncertainty. Many of us feel far less comfortable with the pace of change than we’d prefer. People over age 60 will be the fastest growing segment of the population for the next several years. By 2050, this population will double and one of every five people on the planet will be over sixty years old.

Jason Ryan Dorsey (The Gen Y Guy®), Chief Strategy Officer, The Center for Generational Kinetics spoke of some specific examples to address a multigenerational workplace.

First, “intentionally create a multi-generational team – the different perspectives and backgrounds will make GREAT outcomes.” We know that diverse teams are more creative, and that leveraging the diversity of the different generations creates a unique strength in the organization.”  He also suggested that managers “provide specific examples of performance you expect, because often, the same words mean different things to different generations.”

In their dialogue on “Passing the Leadership Torch: the Art of Top-of-House Transitions between Generations”, Karen Vander Linde and Leslie Bradshaw gave some great examples of leaders from each generation and how they differ. From the traditionalist generation – Jack Welch and Warren Buffett; Steve Jobs and Jenny Rometh (CEO of IBM) as Boomers; GenX has Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo; and GenY has Mark Zuckerberg. They pointed out that the magnitude of leadership jobs is increasing, and that leadership success comes from experience. The seasoned talent pool is getting smaller, so mentoring matters more than ever – informal vs. formal, internal vs. external, and intra-generational vs. cross-generational.

We spoke a bit about 42projects, and how organizational trust can play a role in engaging all generations by respecting diverse skills. Dr. Mike Armour defines trust as complete confidence that a person or organization will consistently do what is right in every given situation.” Today’s workplace has four, perhaps five, generations working side-by-side and many managers, typically Gen X,  struggle with keeping everyone engaged. Trust is a valuable technique to harness the enthusiasm and tech savvy skills of those new to the workforce while still leveraging the wisdom, experience, and institutional knowledge of the boomers and traditionalists.

Stuart Crabb, Head of Learning and Development at Facebook spoke about how they manage a next generation workforce. How the new generation populating the workforce lives in a socially connected world, rejects conventional work practices, and is incredibly demanding about what they want and expect from their career. How many younger employees view traditional incentives and feedback mechanisms as largely irrelevant?  They don’t live to work, they work to live. He shared a few implications for organizations: The importance to Gen Y and Millennials of getting your hands dirty; an ability to have impact is fundamental; the power of friends; fundamentals of social behavior are happening irrespective of policy; and technology is a flywheel. These can create a powerful network effect on a culture. Organizations are inverting and the conversation is no longer being driven by the organization, so embrace it.

Christopher S. Weiser is the National Chair of i-Gen (Inter-Generational) Employee Network Group and spoke about some of the new approaches Sodexo North American is using for multigenerational talent management. He explained the importance of overcoming generational stereotypes through organizational changes to recognize that age does not necessarily equate to experience, or a lack thereof, and that employees of all ages can make valued contributions to the workforce. He spoke of the importance of acknowledging the similarities in the different generations – everyone wants to be respected, valued, and treated fairly and with dignity. Everyone wants to have an opportunity to contribute to the organization. Everyone wants to serve and feel connected to their community. Everyone just wants to belong and fit in!

We live in an unprecedented time where four generations work side-by-side. There is great value in the diversity that these circumstances bring, and great potential for those organizations that can overcome some of the challenges that come along with these demographic changes.

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