I met recently with a leader of an organization that provides solutions and programming to communities in multiple counties. I was not surprised when he said, “What am I going to do? Half of my staff, including myself, is quickly heading toward retirement. The younger employees will not work like we do. They don’t strategize, plan, or complete projects like we do. This organization’s success depends on its ability to provide programming to its constituents. For the programming to succeed, someone has to understand and develop solutions. They have to be able to develop relationships, know the past, know the problems, and develop solutions that will help solve the problems for those who need them.”
This is a dilemma the entire world is facing at this time, yet a small percentage of organizational leaders are developing a plan to deal with it. I hear constantly from officers of organizations that “we are aware of it…” Being “aware” of the situation and developing a strategy on how to transfer the organizational knowledge to the younger generations as some 78 million Boomers exit the workplace are two different things. “Knowing” and “doing” are two different things.
Back to my colleague, I offered some advice. First of all stop expecting the younger generations to work ‘like we do.’ We (the Boomers) worked until we dropped, literally. We are the generation that ‘lived to work’ while the Gen Xers and Gen Ys ‘work to live’. They value flexible time so they can be with family and friends. They will not work until they drop like we did and still do.
Furthermore, they want to work in an environment that is inclusive and autonomous. They do not want to be told ‘what to do’ and ‘how to do it’. ‘Ask’ them how they would do the job. ‘Ask’ them what they would recommend. Let the young people in your organization lead projects of increasing responsibility so they will learn.
Do not expect them to do the job in the same way ‘we’ do it or have “always done it.” Expect them to do things different than us. And, remember that different is not bad. Different is just different. Use their creativity and techo-literacy to develop new and better solutions for a digital world.
Make it okay to be ‘different.’ Instead of stereotyping people and expecting them to behave stereotypically, make it okay for all your employees to share and learn from each other–all generations and all people. Create understanding of each other and individual preferences, values, and needs. Then ask each employee—not each age group—what and how they want to work. Ask them what they expect from the job and experience. Set realistic goals and communicate what success looks like, then get out of the way and let them develop their own way to get there.
If you are looking to create sustainability in your organization, develop innovative solutions to reinvent your organization, or just improve operational performance, create an environment of diversity and inclusiveness. But, in today’s world and over the next decade even more so, include understanding of generational preferences and values in the programming. Otherwise, it will NOT be true diversity and inclusiveness.
Copyright © 2011 by Patricia Hatley
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