Considering there are now five generations active in our workforce it seems reasonable that reaching across three, four, or five generations will represent some challenge. I am often asked questions about how to change the incoming workforce, not how to address the problems, but how to change the people.
Reaching across the generations is complex, but approaching it with the intent to improve relations and not change people is where most of the engagement value exists. It may start with the questions we ask ourselves, and it definitely needs to work towards improving the root cause.
The root cause of our generational differences often develops from leadership style, communication, and organizational culture. Changing our approach should begin with focusing on the commonalities that we share. When we have a successful organization or business it is because we provide products or services that add value or solve problems. Since we’re all in it together, that is one important factor we all have in common.
We should be asking ourselves questions like this:
What is our purpose? Motivation to jump in and get started happens when everyone understands their sense of purpose and contribution. Doing the task is one thing, but understanding why provides the motivation. This is our mission.
What problem are we trying to solve? Most organizations are in the business of fixing, reducing, or improving problems. They fulfill a need and provide value or a solution. Everyone’s contribution should be related to meeting this exact need.
How does what we are doing solve that problem? If we can’t identify the results or establish the metrics or measurement, we’ll likely have trouble with employee engagement. Everything should have an identifiable result and outcome.
When we stop trying to change people and start focusing on the commonalities of our mission, people of every generation will work better together. We may have differences such as values and beliefs, social orientation, and technology competence, but keep this in mind; the value of the team doesn’t exist in everyone being the same. The value of the team exists in utilizing everyone’s knowledge and experience to solve the problem or accomplish the goal.
When leaders forfeit the strength of differences across the generations they have forfeited the value of the team.
Yes, boomers can lead (Gen 9/11, iGen) generation z.
Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker, and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at DennisEGilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.