Workplace Leadership: Bridging the Generational Cohorts

Leadership generational gapsGender inequality in wages and promotional opportunities used to be the hot topic in HR meetings and workplace chatter, but this issue has been overshadowed by the office talk about the Millennials (Gen Y) and how to manage their job expectations and performance.  With Millennials accounting for ~ 50% of the American workforce today and growing to 75% by 2025, businesses are wrestling with how to assimilate Gen Y with older employees who span several generational cohorts (Maturists, Baby Boomers, and Gen X).  Instead of focusing on gender inequities, many office conversations and Facebook posts make fun of the Millennials.  Might this be a broad form of cyber bullying?  Do these pokes help to bridge the gap or do they solidify what we believe to be true and allow us to vent some frustration?

Leaders should be asking themselves, “How can our company help our employees build stronger and more productive relationships across generational cohorts?”   I propose the first step is for all employees to understand the workplace landscape and appreciate what each generation brings to the team.  Questions that should be answered are: (1) what are the different generational cohorts at play within the organization, (2) what are these cohort characteristics, strengths, motivators, needs, values, and preferences, (3) what can each generation recognize as value-add from another, and (4) how can work and communication be constructed that honors and values all contributions.  A leadership coach can facilitate constructive conversation that starts the process; whereby, each employee becomes educated about the generational dynamics and actively looks for ways to productively engage the other generations.

Personal judgment should be suspended of other cohorts’ attitudes and behaviors, because good/bad or right/wrong are only relative assessments. People are products of their culture, and each generation, including Gen Z entering the workforce today, has been raised within their own unique global experiences and technology platforms.  For example, Maturists (born pre-1945), who grew up during the Depression and WW II, lacked many basic necessities and a sense of security.  As a result, Maturists drove toward the preference of “jobs for life.”

The dynamics of the generational cohorts have been compared to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, where Maturists entered the workforce at the first levels with the expectations that jobs served to meet their physiological and safety needs.  On the other hand, Gen Y has been culturized during a time of American abundance and within families where children were given a priority in the family structure.  Gen Y’s parents raised them with a strong sense of love/belonging and provided activities and rewards to build esteem. Having had the first four levels of Maslow’s needs met, it should come as no surprise that Millennials entered the workforce looking to achieve the next level—self-actualization. A need for self-actualization would easily translate into the need for a job that provides meaning and a higher purpose rather than just to collect a paycheck.

Debating the fairness or reasonableness of what each generation expects from work drives wedges among cohorts rather than fostering the conversation in how to bring the generations together. Businesses need to openly talk and act constructively in bridging the generations, because each cohort has a unique ability to offer value.  Leadership coaches can help businesses facilitate these conversations.   A company cannot mandate a bridge be built, but it can encourage and provide a coach, who can help employees design and build the bridge they all want to walk across.


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates workshops that address her clients’ specific business needs.  She has a passion to help organizations engaged all its employees to their fullest potential.  Reach out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741 to further the conversation and determine how she can help you grow your business.

With an Emphasis on Recruiting Talent, How Can a Company Better Invest in All Its Employees?

Coaching Success ModelYou are probably familiar with the old saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease?” Based on my informal conversations around the coffee bar, this seems to be a more common metaphor expressed by long-term employees as it applies to their employers’ investment of time, energy, and resources in recruiting new talent in comparison to investing in their current employees.  Many frustrated professionals are asking, “What about me?  What about my future?”  They perceive they are being left behind as their companies appear to offer more support and opportunities to new hires because of the competition for top talent.

As a coach, I hear many professionals express disappointment in their current employers, whom they believe are not or are only superficially investing in them.  Many do not feel valued and appreciated for what they are or can contribute.  When I ask, “How could your company take greater advantage of what you can contribute,” common responses are: (1) provide me with stretch opportunities that help me grow, yet are still aligned with my abilities and interests, and (2) help me manage the cultural changes influenced by the waved of Millennials entering the workforce.

Saladhuddin (2014) described the four distinct generational cohorts and their identities which are Veteran/Mature/Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, Generation X, and Millennial/Nexter.  Most Veterans have left the workforce with Baby Boomers also rapidly entering retirement.  As of 2015, the estimated distribution of the three most represented workforce cohorts was nearly equal with Baby Boomers at 29%, Gen Xers at 34%, and Millennials at 34%, with the latter projected to increase to 50-75% of the workforce by 2025 (Woods, 2016).  Ten years from now, the Millennial worldview identity will likely have the greatest influence on the workforce landscape, but businesses will still need the skills, experiences, and talents of the remaining Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

Historically, new employees acclimated to their company’s culture, now culture is adapting to accommodate rapid globalization and technology advancements as well as the influence of the Millennial work identity.  These factors are pressing American companies to rethink the way they do business, who they hire, and how their culture will have to change to position themselves for success.  A company’s cultural has never been more in question.  A recent Korn Ferry Institute (2017) study showed that executives believe the main reason that candidates join or leave an organization is because of its culture.  Millennials want to feel good about where they work and have a shared sense of purpose.  Gen Xers want to take their skills to a place where they can make an impact.

Strategic discussions on cultural change are more prevalent today as companies grapple with understanding their current culture, define a cultural vision, identify their cultural gaps, and act on a path to transform culture.  Organizational studies (Kanter, 2012) show that most employees resist change either because of the environment or personal motivations.  How can companies best help and empower their employees with cultural transformation without leaving them behind or having them leave?  I believe the answer can be found in access to a combination of formal personal, team, and organizational coaching.  In the past, coaching used to be reserved for senior executives and leaders.  In the current business climate, I believe most if not all employees can benefit from coaching, and those organizations, who are the trailblazers in how they leverage human capital, will make coaching services available to their employees.  An organizational and leadership coach can help employees find greater fulfillment, engage in cultural change, and meaningfully contribute to their organization’s strategy and goals.

Constructive opinions, viewpoints, and comments welcome on this hot topic.

  1. Do you feel valued at your company and believe management makes reasonable efforts to tap into your talents for mutual benefit?  If not, why do you think your company is not utilizing your full abilities?
  2. What thoughts do you have in how companies could better leverage the power of all employees across generational identities?

References

Kanter, R. (2012). Ten reasons people resist change. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2012/09/ten-reasons-people-resist-chang

Korn Ferry Institute (2017). The talent forecast, part 1: Adapting today’s candidate priorities for tomorrow’s organizational success. Retrieved from  http://www.kornferry.com/the-talent-forecast/the-talent-forecast

Salahuddin, M. (2010). Generational difference impact on leadership style and organizational success. Journal of Diversity Management, 5(2), 1-6.

Woods, K. (2016). Organizational ambidexterity and the multi-generational workforce. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, 20(1), 95-111.


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose/plans, business, finances, relationships, and premarital/marriage.  Contact: sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com