CONQUERING INTERGENERATIONAL CHALLENGES MEANS BUSINESS
Workplace intergenerational challenges are a puzzle and an opportunity. When I started this blog in 2006, we were still in an economic boom, and the mantras were “win the talent wars,” be “the employer of choice,” and “reinvention is the new retirement.” Demographics are still our destiny to a large extent. But the environment has changed – and will again. So we’re staying on top of the developments, trends and focused on solutions.
After almost 6 years it’s time for a renewed Welcome!!!
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As was expressed in 2004-5 surveys and again in 2014, Boomers want to keep working beyond traditional retirement age. Now there’s evidence they mean it. A recent study by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave of workers over age 50 revealed these findings:
72% say their “retirement” will include some form of working. Obviously we need a new word to label this non-retirement.
Twice as many respondents say the most important reason to work is for the mental stimulation (62%) rather than money (31%).
80& of those working say they are doing it because they want to.
83% say working helps keep them more youthful.
Why do they want to work? – Boomer continuing workers fall into 4 categories:
- 33% are “caring contributors” desiring to give back and make a difference
- 24% are “life balancers” who want jobs that allow them to keep valued social connections
- 15% are workaholics – still driven to achieve and feeling in their prime
- 28% are “earnest earners” who need the income and would not choose to be working otherwise.
58% of those working have transitioned to a different line of work from their major career.
Their advice to others;
- Be open to trying something new (76%)
- To do something you really enjoy, be willing to earn less (73%)
So assume Boomers will be in the work world for some time. Understanding their motivations for working and what they are looking to contribute and get out of their work is valuable in getting the most productive outcomes for both solo work and multi-generational teams. A continuing challenge will be achieving effective cross-generational conversation and collaboration.
Today (July 4th) I watched the full, original, uncut version (3 hours long) of the 1972 film “1776” - a serious and funny musical film I have always loved. This time I found it more mesmerizing and powerful than ever. I was moved to tears in parts and so drawn into the wonderful dialogue that captured in a very astute and entertaining way the full array of characters who comprised the Congress that debated, attacked and insulted each other, displayed their humanity and in the end compromised to create and approve the Declaration of Independence.
Serious history and seriously entertaining and powerful on this day
P.S. The age range of the representatives in the Congress was 32 to well into the 80s. (Jefferson was second to youngest, and Franklin was the oldest.) Talk about cross-generational conversation and diversity of thought!
If you’d like more flexibility for all generations in work arrangements and the criteria for how work is evaluated, raise your hand. OK – I see you out there.
A recent national survey of 1,000 employers by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Families and Work Institute found that while progress is being made in flexibility, facetime still counts for a lot in internal dynamics and perceptions of productivity.
The study found that organizations offer flexibility arrangements motivated by a variety of reasons:
35% for employee retention
14% for recruitment
12% to increase productivity
11% because “it’s the right thing to do”
10% to support worker morale and job satisfaction.
* Hiring Partner responsible for lateral recruiting and integration
* Chief Business Development Officer (to work with the Marketing Department and be able to meet with prospective clients as a firm “partner”)
* Pro Bono Director (partner level)
Of course, the partners need to be willing to adjust their compensation, but they should be able to cut back hours - a flexibility bonus.
Obviously, in the case of many of these, a firm can only utilize one person in the position. A firm could have several administrative partners (non-equity) and project managers for practice groups and attorneys whose function is business development leads and client relationship management without performing billable work or being a major business generator.
Firms (desperately) need more mentoring, training and coaching for associates and junior partners. It is often not being done diligently and frequently because attorneys are not compensated for these functions and often not even given non-financial rewards, including much praise. Even people who don’t need the money want to feel valued. That is a big issue we find with our clients. Not feeling valued is often more of a source of resentment and poor morale than reduced or lack of financial compensation among transitioning partners.
So, one of our transitioning principles and recommendations is compensation during the transitioning process - compensation at the attorney’s highest level, but rather a figure sufficient to provide an incentive and security for doing transitioning right and helping the heirs apparent and the firm. Firm support of a transitioning process will take away potential stigmas and convey that the individual is valued and is continuing to contribute to the firm.
Transitioning partners also need to develop some excitement for what they can do work-wise after they leave the firm, should they want to keep working - and many Boomers will, in some capacity. So some transitioners will decide they have attractive options and not want to hang on.
WILL MORE FLEXIBILITY BE COMING FOR GEN Y AND GEN X WORKERS?
The work flexibility movement has taken steps backward since the recent recession took hold. New research from the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveyed 1051 employers on 18 different flextime options and considered which were increasing and decreasing in implementation and use. Overall in less formal ways or one-offs, flexibility has increased. For example, two-thirds of responding organizations allow occasional work from home, up from 50% in 2008, and 38% allow working from home regularly, up from 23% in 2008.
But when viewed by individual options, the findings are the reverse. Compared with 2008:
Job sharing is down from 29% to 18%
Sabbaticals decreased from 38% to 28%
Only 2% of U.S. employers offer any kind of voucher or subsidy for child care, down from 5%
The survey also looked at phased retirement, parental leave, ability to switch shifts, control over time of meal and bathroom breaks, health insurance coverage and other policies.
While workers’ stress has been increasing, employers during the recession and since have felt the need to reduce personnel and costs, which limits ability to be flexible.
So the question is whether as the labor market tightens and talent wars resume (if they do) the younger workers will see work/life flexibility on the upswing and benefit. Will more companies see the value of being perceived as a "best place to work"? Will workers finally experience work arrangements more in tune with their values and their ideas on how, where and when work should be done?
Separate “Dialects” on Cultural Phenomena: Are the #Generational Disconnects Worrisome?
Frank Bruni’s recent New York Times Op-Ed column, “The Water Cooler Runs Dry,” is another story of how the ability to custom-tailor the information we keep up with is a double-edged sword. He was bewildered that his Princeton University students were totally unfamiliar with celebrities of yesteryear whom he mentioned in class.
We now customize what we read and hear to a large degree. People create their personal niches of information and exposure rather than gathering at a cross-cultural, cross-generational “water cooler” or “public square.” Common reference points are fading away. With so much specialization and almost infinite categories, a book can become a best-seller with the sale of many fewer copies than in the past before self-publishing became easier and respectable.
A Princeton colleague of Bruni’s, Hendrik Hartog, director of the American Studies program says the enormous amount of specialized knowledge “leaves an absence of connective tissue for students.” Another colleague, Daniel Rodgers, calls it the “age of fracture.
Makers of commercial entertainment don’t have to chase a mass audience and can produce programs on cable TV or alternatives with cult-like followings. While Bruni can also see some upside, he wrote, ”Each fosters a separate dialect. Finding a collective vocabulary becomes harder.”
It’s clear that’s the way things are going. Should we be worried about what is lost in translation with these diversity disconnects?
Last weekend I saw “Beyond Therapy,” a revival of a very funny early (1982) play by Tony Award winning playwright Christopher Durang. It’s about single, thirty-something big city dwellers struggling to make sense of their lives, their sexual orientations, trying to project their ideal selves, looking for love through newspaper dating ads (before match.com, etc.) and seeking help from therapists crazier than they are.
The playbill cites a December 1981 New York Magazine “Single in the City” issue that described the conditions causing the then young professionals’ angst: “the quest for fame and fortune, the sheer number of singles, the pressure to perform…the delaying of marriage for career.” References to the inability of young people to settle down and giving priority to work over marriage (or love), and statistics about educated professional single women outnumbering similar men sound eerily familiar to the Gen Y/Millennial world of today. We can even draw correlations to a down economy in the early 1980s– the second worst to recent times since the Great Depression.
Despite dramatic changes in technology, the status of women at work and demographics of the workforce in the last 30 years, it seems like déjà vu. Note that the characters in the play and described in the 1981 New York Magazine are Gen Xers and the younger Boomers.
This reinforces one reason Gen Xers (and some Boomers) are not generally sympathetic to Gen Yers. Having lived through similar experiences without having hovering parents, coaches and mentors, perhaps their attitude toward the younger generation is understandable: “We survived relying on ourselves.” “Why can’t they figure it out?” Why do they expect so much help?” Often they perceive the Gen Y/Millennials to be unfocused and uncommitted.
SOUND BITES FROM THE WISDOM OF VERY SUCCESSFUL WOMEN LAWYERS
A panel of senior (in status) Boomer and Gen X law firm partners and corporate counsel imparted, with both wisdom and humor how they mastered their career trajectories at the Women in Law Empowerment Forum’s (WILEF East) March 19, 2014 program. The women, in several cases, described how their careers evolved in surprising ways, sometimes the opposite of what they thought they wanted until they gave it a shot.
Here is a collection of sound bites (not necessarily in their exact words) from the discussion that I found both appealing and valuable for the lawyers in the audience and even beyond the legal profession/industry.
Opportunity favors the prepared.
Listen for your boss’ priorities.
Have your boss’ back so he/she can trust you.
Propose solutions; don’t just do the rote thing with an assignment.
Be your authentic self and try to assure that everyone perceives you the same way.
Never say “never.”
Don’t consider what you at first perceive as failures to be failures.
Don’t cover up mistakes. Own up to them and immediately suggest a solution.
Show you are constantly thinking beyond what is required.
Never confess (especially to a man) what you don’t know. Go find it out.
Always look for both mentors and for opportunities to mentor others.
Wisdom only comes from an accumulation of experiences.
On the theme of POWER:
People give up power by thinking they don’t have any
Men define power as control. Women define power as influence.
Assert yourself from the beginning when you negotiate compensation.
People perceive power from symbols
Project a sense of self-respect to be perceived as powerful.
Power is when people more experienced than you respond and do work for you.
Act confident and you will attain power.
Which ones resonate with you, whether you are a lawyer or not, a woman or not? Share your thoughts in comments here.
WHAT WE LEARN FROM PERU’S MULTI-GENERATIONAL CULTURES
I’ve recently returned from a trip to Peru and learned so many fascinating things about Andean culture, philosophy and how they stay happy in their multi-generational living and working arrangements. I will relate a few tidbits here along with how the U.S. is actually adopting the practices of ancient and less advanced cultures.
Some learnings from the Incas and other Andean cultures of Peru:
The central philosophy is Love, Learning and Service. Will the Boomers and Gen Y/Millennials increasingly adopt those values?
Those cultures are quite stress-free, attributed to their hard work, low desire for material goods beyond their definition of necessity and comfort.
Multiple generations live and work together by choice as well as necessity.
Women have very significant work roles.
A philosophy of “reciprocity” – today for you, tomorrow for me (which is the secret of successful networking, of course) pervades their lives.
Trial marriage is the custom in some Andean cultures. If it doesn’t work out, you can say “goodbye” and go on their way. No lawyers needed. However, if a child is produced during the trial marriage, the couple must marry.
Owing to demographics (age, ethnicity, immigrant cultures), economics and environmental conditions, the U.S. seems to be getting to be more like the Andean cultures.
Several studies reveal that Boomers are helping children and grandchildren financially. For example, a Merrill Lynch- Age Wave survey (2013) found that 62% of people age 50 plus helped family members in the last 5 years. And they’re helping with unpaid work too: grandparents care for 30% of pre-schoolers while the parents work.
Ken Dychtwald of Age Wave said, “Boomers want to be where the action is” rather than separating themselves in their living and working arrangements.
A couple living together either before marriage or with no committed intention of marriage has been growing for several decades.
Women’s work roles beyond domestic ones have been increasing.
Unfortunately, our stress levels have been increasing every year, and with our multitude of consumer goods, we are not getting happier.
Whether these trends will continue as Gen X ages and if the economy settles into a more positive pattern remains to be seen. And smart as we think we are in technological innovation, the Inca accomplishments of the 1500s are still ahead of us
For the last three years I have suggested topics on inter-generational relations at work for my externs and interns to write about, and I have published a selection of them on this blog. My extern in January 2014 was Danielle Kronenfeld, a junior at the Cornell University Industrial and Labor Relations School. One of the topics she chose to write about is what her generation desires in leaders. Below are my questions and Danielle’s responses.
Phyllis: What attributes are you and other Gen Y/Millennials looking for in leaders?
Danielle: I think that Gen Yers are looking for our leaders to act as mentors. We are extremely eager to learn, so we want leaders who are willing to teach us and help us grow. More specifically, we want our leaders to be intelligent and to have respect for us.
We are incredibly driven, more educated than previous generations, and probably a little bit too arrogant. This makes us believe that we have all of the solutions, despite our lack of real world experience. Of course, we do realize that we do not literally know how to solve every problem. However, our overall confidence makes it that much more important to us that our leaders have faith in our ideas and are willing to listen.
While conducting my summer internship search over the past semester, I spoke to many previous interns and recent graduates who had just started working full time. When I asked them about their favorite experience during their internship or since they started working, most of them told stories of when a senior manager invited them into his or her office to answer their questions or give them advice. Gen Yers are happiest when our leaders are willing to give us that kind of time and attention.
Phyllis:Do you think business leaders will be younger than in the past?
Danielle: Despite the fact that we like business leaders who are more experienced, I think that leaders will be younger than in the past. With the recent and continuingly rapid growth in technology, younger people are more knowledgeable and able to adapt to the most current trends.
Phyllis:What skills other than technological savvy will they have and/or need?
I think that adaptability is one of the most valuable qualities that a leader can have in today’s workplace, and one of the most distinguishing qualities that Gen Yers have mastered. Studies show that because we grew up during this time of rapid advancements, our generation is much less loyal than previous generations.
Whether it’s to our current routine in school or at work, our favorite shampoo brand, or our significant others, Millennials feels less attached to the status quo are more likely to switch to a different practice. Gen Yers are always looking for the best possible option, and are usually not afraid to leave something behind when a superior alternative comes along.
Phyllis: To our readers: Please give us your comments. Agree or disagree? What attributes do you think leaders in a Gen Y-prevalent work world will have? Will be needed?