Embrace generational diversity
Are you a for-profit organization looking for people who will help make more money than they will cost the business? Are you a nonprofit employer seeking employees with passion for the cause you serve? Does your workplace use the full breadth of talent available to it? Are you attracting the right candidates?
The key to making the most out of these challenges lies in embracing generational diversity. It will foster a culture of flexibility and collaboration in which everyone is responsible for the high quality and timeliness of the final product.
Fuse: Making Sense of the New Cogenerational Workplace by Jim Finkelstein with Mary Gavin, includes a bonus chapter from Ayelet Baron.
I love to read! A few weeks ago, I went to visit my parents in Northern Canada. Not only was I looking forward to spending time with them but I was also looking forward to the long plane ride from San Francisco so I could indulge in uninterrupted reading time. For this trip, I selected a few books including "Fuse: Making Sense of the New Cogenerational Workplace". My colleague and friend Ayelet Baron, VP Strategy for Cisco Canada, contributed a bonus chapter to the book and I wanted to check it out.
Fuse isn’t just another generations book. It’s a thought provoking, entertaining and useful read that will have you questioning your beliefs about how to get the most out of generational diversity. It shows you how to weave together the experience of Boomers and the techno-smarts of Millennials in ways that benefit you and your organization. Authors Jim Finkelstein and Mary Gavin suggest that common points of fusion exist in all of us.
There are vast differences between employees fresh out of school and their more seasoned counterparts. As a team, working in more flexible ways gives you a chance to leverage the best qualities of each generation. That means young people can learn how to be professionals at the same time that older or less knowledgeable team members can come up to speed on their technological skills.
To find out whether your organization is cogenerationally savvy, take the Fuse quiz. Your results might surprise you.
The right kind of job descriptions
Are you attracting the right candidates? How much time and effort do you put in crafting the right job description? Does it have the correct tone? Resist the temptation to save time by recycling a generic job description. Instead, you should consider an extra step. The Fuse authors explain the importance of tone and positioning in job descriptions.
A Millennial won’t read past the first sentence of a job description unless it hooks her. If the first line doesn’t explain why the organization is great and how it’s making a difference in the community, city, county, state, country, world, or universe, chances are the Millennial won’t bother applying.
Contrast that with the old approach of leading with the laundry list of all the job responsibilities. It might be worth taking the time to audit your job description template to ensure that you include the emotional hook in that key first sentence. In doing so, you’ll have a better chance of enticing high potential candidates to read beyond the first sentence. Consider emphasizing employees, community, and environment. Other considerations (as long as it’s true) are the promise of meaningful work and access to technology.
Does your organization have a reverse mentoring program?
Reverse mentoring was first popularized by former GE Chairman Jack Welsh and it’s been around for about a decade. It’s a relatively new type of mentoring where the traditional roles are reversed and junior employees take on the role of teacher to their more experienced co-workers. The Millennials are coming into the workforce with networking and global-mindedness skills from which older generations can learn. In addition, Millennials are technology natives who can drive a role reversal by mentoring technology-challenged Boomers.
If you don’t have a program in place, the good news is that reverse or reciprocal mentoring can take place within existing company mentoring programs. What you’re looking to do is match up employees of different generations and encourage them to meet on a regular basis to exchange ideas. Mix and match: don’t restrict mentoring relationships to people of the same gender or same fields. There so much to learn from people who are different from ourselves.
How frequently do you communicate with your team and how do you do it?
Millennials expect management communication to be:
- In person, if the message is really important
From Fuse on “How Millennials view communication”:
There is no need to take time to listen to a voice-mail when you see a number on your smartphone – just hit redial.
Gaming = entertainment + work
Millennials are fast becoming an influential factor in the workplace and an increasingly important part of its future. They grew up with computers and cell phones the way Boomers and Gen Xers grew up with typewriters and corded telephones. Boomers see technology as a tool, or even a toy, while younger workers see it as an extension of themselves. Millennials see themselves as “technology natives,” sensible multitaskers who get a lot done. Most of them mix entertainment and work.
The Kids Are Alright: How the Gamer Generation Is Changing the Workplace by John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade, is an excellent reference on the impact of video games on young people. The authors argue that gamers collect valuable knowledge from their entertainment and that they’re poised to use that knowledge to transform the workplace.
Move over Stephen Covey, these are the 7 Habits of Highly Typical Gamers:
- Everyone Can Succeed Gamers grow up in a world where literally everyone can succeed at just about anything. By working hard enough (and long enough), it is possible for every player to win these games.
- You Gotta Play the Odds This generation grows up playing games of chance. There has been a probability algorithm built into almost every game they’ve played.
- Learn From the Team, Not the Coach Whenever you can, resist the urge to dint; often you “teach” better by introducing a group of gamers to a problem and then just getting out of the way.
- Kill Bosses: Trust Strategy Guides Share hand-won knowledge. Position yourself as a fellow player who has been there and can offer some strategy tips, not as a boss.
- Watch the Map Gamers count on the “meta-map” that shows where they are in relation to other players, goals, obstacles, and resources.
- Can’t See It; Ignore It The action is all on the surface. This generation can become confused, baffles, even furious when thwarted by unseen forces in organizations.
- Demand the Right Team Good gamers flee places where there aren’t enough high-quality players. They do the same in other parts of life as well.
Why not help the gamers you care about find teams that match their level — and their passion for a particular challenge — and you’ll be amazed at what they can do.
Are you beginning to see how you can make Millennials’ habits work for you and for the gamification of the business (it will happen whether you like it or not)? Respect is the starting point of any relationship. All it takes is the genuine desire to learn from each other.
You Fuse, You Win!
It’s not always easy to get along… That’s because we all see things differently. And different is not bad! In fact, it can be very good! Successful businesses cultivate new and innovative ideas. From those ideas come ways to expand the business by offering new services, working more efficiently, and marketing more effectively.
As a team, working in new and more flexible way gives us a chance to leverage the best qualities of each generation. That means young people can learn how to be professionals at the same time that older or less knowledgeable team members can come up to speed on their technological skills.
You fuse, you win!
- Benefit from the best qualities of each generation
- Give young people the opportunity to learn how to be professionals as well as business leaders
- Let young people to teach others how to use technology more effectively
- Use the full dimension of available talent
Fuse: Making Sense of the New Cogenerational Workplace is a great read. I especially like the call-out features of the book. These include “fuse tips” – helpful suggestions for connection opportunities and “fusions” – bulleted list summaries that conclude every chapter.
A fused workplace can provide tremendous benefits in terms of improved morale, outside-the-box thinking, greater teamwork, and an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect. In such an environment, there is less focus on the specific schedule of when or where the work is accomplished. The benefit to the business is a more nimble and efficient organization with increased capacity to effectively meet client needs.
Use ALL your talent
Are you creating a workplace that uses the full dimension of talent available to it? Remember that “you snooze, you lose” and “you fuse, you win”.