“There is perhaps an increase in people’s frustration and inability to cope with rapid changes taking place in the world today in all dimensions, from social norms to business practices”. Srikumar Rao
Generational differences in the workplace is one of the biggest changes in business today and part of what is increasing costs of employee turnover. Your company may have just let some people go, cut back in services, or frozen salaries to adapt. Big changes.
The current economic slow-down along with regulations and healthcare requirements has forced an overload of change on businesses. There’s that and, four generations in the workplace, the youngest often reporting to work with lots of education and less work experience than any generation prior.
These changes generate a loss of self, power, influence over circumstances and perceived value. It means we have to come-to-grips with what we don’t know and learn new ways of doing things. Technology is pushing change and making it possible to do many things faster and cheaper with better results. And yet, many organizations hesitate to dive in. Resisting change is something all of us do and the best ways to manage four generations can be a mystery.
Do you know what questions to ask for managing your changing workplace?
Here are two mysteries to explore for managing generational differences in your workplace:
Mystery#1: Can owners and managers identify how generations are similar or may complement each other? We know there are differences but, is it also possible that generations are compatible is some ways? A look at basic human needs can help. All generations want to feel valued, empowered, and engaged at work. Although Gen X and Gen Y often demand more flexibility in their jobs, Traditionalists and Baby Boomers want that, too but are less vocal about it. They have sacrificed and lived to brag about it.
On the other hand…
Mystery #2: Is it possible for owners and managers to take a look at the annoying characteristics of Gen Y to understand them better? Will knowing why help you get their best performance?
PEW Research reports that Gen Y get along well with others, especially their elders, a welcomed character trait. They are most diverse of any other generation and in this way, most resemble Traditionalists, many whose parents came to the U.S. during a surge of immigration beginning in the late 1800s. More than half have at least some college education. Family is far more important to them than work and they get along better with their parents than any other generation has before them. Maybe Gen Y need training for how to adapt to Boomer values and also be allowed to apply their uniqueness to generating more value for the company.
Gen Y say these are the one things most important in their lives:
- 52% Being a good parent
- 30% Having a successful marriage
- 21% Helping others in need
- 20% Owning a home
- 15% Living a very religious life
- 15% Being successful in a high-paying career
- 9% Having lots of free time
- 1% Becoming famous
Is there a way to harness these qualities for the performance you want to see?
Mystery #3: Can organizational leaders be enthusiastic, inspiring and supportive of employees?
You would probably love for your employees to describe you this way but may not know how to make it happen.
Some business leaders who are best at change management are Bill George, Tony Hsieh, and Srikumar Rao. All make it clear that company leadership must dig-down to the organizational purpose, what they give that helps people, customers and employees and why they give it. It is the company “why”. These experienced leaders have the clues for being enthusiastic, inspiring and supportive of their employees. Once you discover this for yourself, sharing it with your employees will inspire them and make them more enthusiastic at work.
And, if you discover the answer to this mystery, you will find clarity and confidence for managing all four generations in your workplace.
Mystery #4: Can employees be trusted or is the temptation to cheat and steal stronger than?
Members of all generations want to be trusted at work and want their leaders to believe they will perform their jobs as productively and efficiently as possible. We don’t think so much today about time wasted on the job as stealing because most employees don’t punch a time clock. And yet, many owners and managers still do.
My brother believes that we are so human that left to self-motivation, we all do less and want more for it all the time. It’s the old “If you give an inch, they’ll take a mile”.
This mystery-question was intended to address a lack of trust of employees for personal use of technology and internet. A story I hear that repeats itself again and again is of the young employee who will not limit cell phone use and gets fired after several warnings. Too bad, another under-employed Generation Y trying to find a job that suites their personal needs, an obvious priority. This young person needs knowledge for adapting to the Boomer ways of working and how to hang on to a job so that they have a working career.
Managers and supervisors can do a whole lot more communicating and guiding new employees for how to be in the workplace. Remember, most have not had much work experience. It starts with setting clear expectations of company policy when recruiting, interviewing and hiring. And, it’s only fair to say that companies are wise to look at how the internet and communications technology can improve the bottom line. If they don’t they might be left behind. Hiring Generation Y can help with that.
The big problem is that many jobs don’t provide opportunities to run with a new ideas. And, much of work is mundane and lacks excitement. For my part, when I am “pumped” about writing a new program or presentation and “lose myself” in the vision of helping people by giving them new information, I lose track of time, space and obstacles and it is a beautiful thing. Generation Y is asking for this experience in their work. It is the entrepreneurial inspiration they are so suited for.
If you are a business owner or manager today you might be feeling loss because of change and are looking for the shortest way out. The best way out is not quick, like only hiring older workers. What is best for the long term is accepting change and looking for new ways of working that fit the changing workplace filled with generational differences.