Summit Group Partners Blog

Multi-Generational Workplaces -- A Recipe for Success

In today’s world of faster, younger, social media and market forces impacting change every three months, what is the best make up for your workforce?

 

It ultimately depends on your product and market, but in reality multigenerational workforces are a part of every business sector today. For the first time in U.S. history, four generations of workers are sharing the professional workplace.

 

The four generations represented in many workplaces today span nearly 80 years. They are the Silent/War Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y. Each generational segment has been molded by common experiences of world events and circumstances—economic changes, wars, political ideologies, technological innovations, social upheavals—and tends to display unique behaviors and values which can impact the way they perceive their employer and work environment.


Understanding generational differences is critical to helping to get employees to work for the organization and not against it. It is important to take note of some trends that are driving the current workforce makeup:


1. Competition for talent is at its highest level. It doesn’t matter that we are mired in a post-recession slump, the cost of finding and training a new employee could reach 150% of their salary. There are many people today who are not being equipped with the skills necessary to meet the demands. Thus retraining current employees is much cheaper and could be more effective


2. People will be working longer and retiring at a later age. The Baby Boomers who may have indulged in bigger houses and more comforts than their parents have a different lifestyle that must be compensated for when looking at retirement. As portfolios have seen significant volatility in returns this group is looking to retire at a later age.


3. Profitability and productivity are linked to work environment. As more evidence supports the notion that overall results are driven from culture and the happiness/satisfaction of employees the fact that the workforce makeup is more mixed requires a focused effort by companies to create the environment which drives the results.


HR executives are having to expand overall programs and services to meet the needs of the various groups which now make up the workforce. The Silent/War Generation are usually made up of people who respect authority and are highly disciplined while Generation Y workers have more tolerance for differences and have higher expectations. What a company offers as far as benefits, training, job enrichment and retention strategies may vary between groups and that can become an issue given budget constraints on expenses and investment in people. Companies are moving more towards cafeteria style plans so that employees can pick those that meet their needs and provide them with opportunities that will meet their needs in the future.


The following chart illustrates the differences between the generations that employers must take into account while developing support for employees:

 

 

                       

 

SILENT/WAR

BABY BOOMERS

GENERATION X

GENERATION Y

OUTLOOK

Practical

Optimistic

Skeptical

Hopeful

WORK ETHIC

Dedicated

Driven

Balanced

Ambitious

VIEW OF AUTHORITY

Respectful

Love/Hate

Unimpressed

Relaxed, polite

LEADERSHIP BY…

Hierarchy

Consensus

Competence

Achievement, Pulling together

RELATIONSHIPS

Self-sacrifice

Personal Gratification

Reluctance to commit

Loyal, inclusive

PERSPECTIVE

Civic Minded

Team Oriented

Self-Reliant

Civic Minded

TURN-OFFS

Vulgarity

Political Incorrectness

Clichés/Hype

Cynicism

©2006 Claire Raines

 

The positive side of blending these generations is its very impact on the business overall. Like a great stew, the individual ingredients may not wow you on their own, but together make a flavor that keeps people coming back for more. Today it is not just learning from those who come before you, but learning from those besides you. The risk-taker entrepreneur-type who is looking for the next Google or Apple discovery will learn great things from a Baby Boomer who may be more cautious and want further analysis. When combined with the hard work ethic of the silent generation, your employees will be sure to deliver a quality product or service. Additional benefits of a multigenerational workforce include:


• Businesses can attract and retain talented people of all ages

 

• Flexibility of the team is greater given the combination of skills


• Greater market share can be achieved and maintained because it’s the company sales and customer service members reflect a multigenerational market and understand the needs of a greater audience


• Decisions are stronger because they are broad-based with multiple perspectives


• Innovative and creative ideas are brought forth given the varied experiences of the individuals who make up the team


• Employees can relate more effectively to a diverse market place and individual customers


So how does one effectively manage a multigenerational workforce to make the whole much greater than the sum of the parts? This is the challenge facing many companies today and it has been highlighted by four generations all working together. Some initial thoughts on strategies that companies can evaluate to address are:


• Have the discussion with your teams. People make judgments about others and many of them could be influenced by what they see as generational mismatches. At times people will make these judgments without even realizing the basis for them. When they get them out in the open, the issues become less personalized and more generalized. They become easier to talk about and a healthier respect for each other’s perspective can come from this .


• Ask people about their needs and preferences. The only way to know what people want out of their job and each other is to ask. A company can then define what are common needs and what may be generational that still needs to be addressed.


• Offer options and flexibility. Using cafeteria style benefit plans, flexible working hours, telecommuting and smaller and diverse work teams can help meet the various needs of all employees while managing costs.

 

• Train management about workplace differences and how to become more situational in their leadership style. This may be a challenge for many especially those coming from more hierarchical beliefs but is crucial to get all generations cooperating and working together.


• Leverage the strengths of the team. This could be the greatest opportunity to make a real and impactful difference. Get people to contribute their individual skills while learning from others. Urge people who are different to become more of who they already are, rather than trying to blend in with the rest of the team. Gain from the different perspectives on the team and allow for them to shine.


The fact is that we are in a new frontier with four generations now working side by side. Defining how to make it work is a significant strategy undertaking that needs senior level focus and a commitment to harness the power of the entire team individually and collectively.
 

About the author

Kevin Lombardo
Kevin P. Lombardo, Founder and CEO

Kevin founded Summit Group Partners to support businesses throughout the United States in their quest to accelerate a transformation and achieve sustainable change through strategies of growth, expansion and operational excellence. His passion is to help businesses and executives maximize their potential. Throughout his consulting career, Kevin has formally coached over 25 CEOs and business owners representing 10,000 employees’ globally and nearly $2 billion in revenues and helped them to unlock human potential and shareholder value. With 14 years of direct P&L leadership and over two decades of management and consulting experience in multiple industries Kevin can quickly bring the resources together to make an immediate impact on any organization. Kevin participates on various industry panels and has spoken at corporate and industry events throughout the country on the topic of accelerated sustainable change. Furthermore, he has authored numerous articles on corresponding subjects and has been interviewed by media outlets throughout the country.

Kevin directs all engagements for Summit Group Partners from inception and guides their progress throughout in order to ensure consistency and efficiency in all services delivered. He also manages client relationships and develops optimum solutions tailored for each client’s specific need. He has extensive experience assisting both healthy and distressed companies with M&A transaction leadership, revenue growth, operational improvements, restructuring debt, negotiating with creditors and unions along with locating financing.

Prior to forming Summit Group Partners, Kevin built two nationally renowned consulting practices from 2004 through 2010. Kevin has held numerous senior executive positions including CEO, President, CRO, EVP and CFO of publicly traded, privately held, Fortune 500 and private equity led businesses. Kevin has an extensive background in business leadership, strategic planning, growing revenue, profits and shareholder value of numerous businesses, executive development, entrepreneurship and turnaround management. As CEO of a $300 million dollar supplier of print services, Kevin led the transformation from a stale business model to a growth engine for the parent company, achieving revenue growth of 7% after multiple years of decline, reaching and sustaining the number one market share position and supporting the stock price increase of 300% within 15 months of taking the leadership role. He has held the position of CRO multiple times and has three times led businesses through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process with each company successfully emerging with a confirmed plan of reorganization. He has led and executed the management of the merger, acquisition, divestiture and integration of over two dozen businesses with total transaction value in excess of $1.5 billion. Kevin received both his BS and MBA from the State University of New York at Buffalo. In addition, he holds a graduate certificate from Cornell University in Human Resource Management.

Comments

Mr

Blending the generations is a challenge not just for executives but for all of us. We are all in a business - be it as a corporate, private, or personal to achieve a certain level of satisfaction/life style. Hence we are driven by competition, productivity and profitability – however each has different sets of motivation, enthusiasm, commitment and relationships which are derived from the cultural evolution shown in the table.

Corporations, Business and People make judgments about their business which are influenced by what they have learned in their lifetime and stored in their subconscious mind – forming the basis of instantaneous decision making, with review over time, where time is the friend and the enemy, you cannot touch or feel it and you can’t keep it.

Corporations and business face the challenge of assimilating these subconscious benchmarks which display themselves as motivation, enthusiasm, and commitment and over time in relationships.

So what can be done to change the subconscious ‘behaviour’ from a business perspective?

If each of us approaches business from a perspective of relationship which starts at the first point of contact – the interview – and business establishes relationships (the simplest way) to every activity expected of the new ‘business relationship with the prospective employee’ than it will be easier/simpler to build the commitment, enthusiasm and motivation toward excellence in each of us, for the benefit of all.

It’s a change in how we think about business and our relationship to it – Each of us need to work ‘on the business, not in the businesses.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011
Mr.

This ia a major challenge. In developing economies such as Kenya, where unemployment is very high, the younger generation, may feel the older generation past the retirement age, are either denying the younger more educated chances in employment or delaying their promotions.

This therefore calls for encouraging greater understanding and team buiding from the whole workforce. The Older generation may also exhibit resistance to change, while the younger generation may wish for faster speed of change, than the whole organization.

There is need to manage suspicion from the entire mix and address various concerns from the generation groups.

This is a major challenge not only for HRM, but for the entire management of any organization.

regards

Oloo Paul

Friday, 16 December 2011
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