By Bridget McCrea
As you read in Part I of this article series, there are now five generations of employees in the workforce. This level of diversity has put new pressures on electrical distributors to develop corporate cultures that incorporate all of these employees, and particularly in an environment where individuals in their late-40s to early-60s continue to lead as they have been for the last few decades.
The question is, how can a distributor buck this trend and develop a multigenerational corporate culture? And, when done right, what rewards will this exercise produce for the company that’s willing to the put the time, energy, and effort into the process? In this article, we’ll help you answer those questions and give you tips on how to create a corporate culture that spans the various generations that make up your workforce.
Breaking Down the Silos
Cachet Prescott, a leadership coach and owner of Shift Matter Coaching & Consulting in Atlanta, says a distributor’s culture sets the tone for how “we do things around here,” and plays an important role in the organization’s overall success. Some cultures are clearly spelled out and practiced regularly, others are woven into the very fabric of the organization, and others are more loosely defined and applied. Regardless of how your company approaches the task, developing a culture that factors in all generations should start with these steps:
- Acknowledge your own preconceived notions about other generations, educate yourself on intergenerational issues, and be willing to learn from those in other generations.
- Set the example (and the tone) for inclusion. Support your team, and treat everyone fairly. “Embrace differences, and make them work for your organization,” says Prescott.
- Initiate the conversation about generational diversity in your workplace, she adds, and “watch your language when talking about other generations.” Ask for feedback and always ask your team about its needs and preferences.
- Familiarize yourself about each generation (in general) but also get to know each person individually. “Build on each person’s strengths,” says Prescott, “instead of focusing on their weaknesses.”
- Enlighten and educate your team. “Train your management team and team members on generational diversity,” Prescott advises, “and on how to accommodate different learning styles.”
- Be flexible. “The workplace is constantly evolving,” says Prescott, “so be open to and welcome change.”
Prescott says the fact that millennials have eclipsed the Baby Boomers to comprise the largest portion of working individuals right now should be enough to push companies to reconsider their corporate cultures. “That number is going to grow, with the next generation quickly coming up on the millennials’ heels,” says Prescott, who estimates that about 45% of the total U.S. workforce will be made up of millennials by 2025.
Millennials Leading Boomers
A recent survey from Future Workplace shows that a growing number of millennials are managing Gen X and Baby Boomer professionals. According to the Multi-Generational Leadership Study, 83% of companies have seen millennials managing Gen X and Baby Boomers in their office, but 45% of Baby Boomers and Gen X respondents feel that millennials’ lack of managerial experience could have a negative impact on a company’s culture. On a related note, over one-third of millennial respondents said that it’s difficult managing older generations.
Right now, Prescott is concerned about the “frustrations” that employers seem to be having with the millennial generation—which right now is aged 21-36. “For everyone to get along in the workplace,” says Prescott, “we’re all going to have to get to know the millennials, understand them better, and help them do their part in the workforce.” One easy way to do this is capitalizing on the millennials’ strengths instead of dwelling on their supposed “faults.” For example, a 28-year-old may be able to offer some solid “reverse mentoring” on technology usage—to a veteran employee—in exchange for some practical electrical distribution knowledge.
Even an informal mentoring relationship can help push older workers out of their comfort zones and encourage more collaboration and teamwork across generations.
Steven Handmaker, chief marketing officer at Schaumburg, Ill.-based Assurance, an independent insurance brokerage, concurs, and says another good strategy is to simply stop separating the generations into individual buckets and focus on the bonds that tie those groups together.
“Across generations, despite great differences, there are certain universal truths that don’t lend themselves to mattering what age you are,” says Handmaker. “If you make that the core of your culture—that is, the ties that bind you all together—you have a greater chance at strengthening something that’s sustainable.” That doesn’t mean one size fits all, Handmaker says, but it does mean that the distributor that recognizes and respects its employees as a whole will have the best chance of creating a sustainable culture. “Pitting everyone against one another and focusing on the differences is a mistake,” he says. “You can make your culture more meaningful and powerful by not alienating any one segment.”
All They Want is a Little Recognition!
One of the best ways to ensure that your corporate culture resonates and is upheld by every generation is by creating recognition programs that reward employees for their good work. In 5 Tips for Effective Multigenerational Employee Recognition, author David Sturt offers these suggestions:
1. Deepen engagement by holding younger employees accountable and building trust for older workers. Towers Watson research shows that regardless of age, the top driver of employee engagement is a “sense of opportunity for development in the organization and that the company cares about me.”
2. Motivate younger employees with promotions and formal recognition for their work. Motivate older employees with variety and autonomy. Across the board, employees are motivated by exciting, challenging work.
3. Make sure recognition is meaningful for less experienced employees and based on performance for more experienced employees. Less experienced employees (those under age 25) want recognition to come across as genuine and personal. More experienced employees (ages 26 and up) need their recognition to be specific, based on performance, and given for very clear reasons.
4. Highlight unique ways less experienced employees contribute, and make sure recognition is given fairly for more experienced employees. All employees want to be recognized and appreciated in a variety of ways.
5. When planning career celebrations, keep in mind what would be most meaningful for each individual employee. Younger employees (ages 25-44) report wanting a more casual, party-like environment with more opportunities to socialize…older employees (ages 45-64) are more comfortable with more corporate/formal presentations, family involvement, and greater management participation.
“By recognizing and appreciating your multigenerational employees appropriately,” Sturt writes, “you can engage, motivate, and inspire great work from all of them.”
Read the complete article online here.
McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at email@example.com or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.
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