Generational differences or poor management?

Posted October 23, 2008 in Latest News & Insights

This past month our PowerRoundtable event featured a discussion on all the “generational” buzz that’s going on in the workplace.  My executive panelists Razor Suleman (I Love Rewards), Naomi Shaw (Scotiabank) and Sarah Nisbeth (Young & Rubicam) dove into the discussion on what leading multiple generations in the workplace is all about.

Personally, I’m beginning to think that alot of this discussion on generations is a little bit of “hype”, and (more cynically) one more “quick fix” way that HR teams look to solve, what is often, poor communication practices between their managers and their direct reports.

After all… generations may have different experiences that form their work (and world) view, but at the end of the day, we’re all people.  People who wake up each morning, need to earn a living and want to enjoy what it is that we’re doing.  I don’t believe that the majority of employees want to go in and be miserable on the job (I say majority because my husband continually points out to me that their are a number “functioning” mentally ill people in the workplace… but that’s a post for another day).

Regardless, most managers are completely ill equipped to have career management and coaching conversations with their employees.  The majority of managers get promoted up on technical competence and we continue to push the acquisition of technical skills (certifications, hard skills) versus spending nearly enough time on what we term “soft skills” like communiciation, feeback and coaching.

Why is this?  We know we’re in a knowledge economy… we know that we have a huge impending talent short-fall (especially in the leadership ranks) and yet we continue to poorly equip our managers.  I don’t get it.

Anyway, I digress…back to the generation topic.  The panelists and our opinionated participants did come up with a list of tips on how to “engage” a multi-generational workplace.  Here are the top 6:

Think fit… It’s less about generational differences and more about cultural fitIt’s important to understand your organization’s culture and goals and recruit accordingly. Culture is about trade-offs – understand what you are and are NOT, and be comfortable with who you will attract as a result.  Be purposeful.

Transparency… make sure that your key people (regardless of level) know you value them. Make sure they are aware of opportunities for growth and development.

Coaching is core… investing in our next generation of leaders is crucial and coaching is a key skill that all managers need to develop relentlessly.

Pull vs. push… the internet has made information readily available and allows us to find what we’re looking for, when we’re looking for it. Accessibility of information through a variety of mediums is necessary for recruiting and communicating with the new workforce. Think YouTube, Twitter, blogs, Facebook.

Conversations matter… When it gets right down to it, it’s still about connecting one to one. Many things influence our view of work: life stage, personal needs, upbringing, personality, in addition to generational influences.

Don’t believe all the generational hype… The principles of retention and attraction are enduring: meaningful work, positive environment, autonomy to do your job.  If you can create this in your teams, engaged of all generations will follow.

Happy leading!








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