On Veterans Day – or any day – we need to go beyond expressing gratitude for veterans’ military service. That’s a given. But what they really want and deserve are jobs – new careers – that not only provide a paycheck (vital) but also enable them to use their skills, insights and perspectives gained from their experience to continue to contribute in meaningful ways.
Whether potential employers, recruiters or workplace colleagues, it’s important to realize that 20- or 30-something veterans, particularly those who have had combat experience or trained those who have, are not typical Gen Y/Millennials. Of necessity, they have achieved a greater sense of maturity, and they have likely faced and survived different challenges. Often they are more comfortable working and socializing with Gen Xers and Boomers. Their diverse experience should be recognized for the extraordinary value it can bring to the business and consumer marketplace. They know what extreme loyalty and teamwork is.
Reach out and help them network and learn the business cultures they will be entering. Respect them not only for their past but what they can be in the future given the opportunity.
For years one of the primary ways to call attention to a diversity issue and to build strength for a specific “minority” group has been to create an “affinity group.” The group would aim to build networks, confidence, and educate both members and other stakeholders outside the group. I believe that once a certain level of awareness is created, the separateness approach stands in the way of, or slows, progress in achieving desired goals. We can achieve much more progress collapsing the gaps reinforced by silos and forming alliances and coalitions to expand true opportunity and equity together
Let’s take serious efforts to break down the silo walls and ally generations, gender, race/ethnicity, LGBTQ, differently-abled and other identified affinities. That doesn’t mean getting rid of affinity groups entirely, as they still serve useful purposes. I would prefer to see them as collaborators that can plan to ease themselves out of existence as the need declines.
Some corporations have seen the light, particularly around gender.
Here are examples of specific actions toward gender inclusion:
A consultancy, White Men As Full Diversity Partners LLC, coaches men to shift mindsets and behaviors to achieve a more inclusive work culture. Catalyst’s initiative gets men to recognize the influence of unconscious bias on the workplace and has used this group for their programs.
National Association of Female Executives (NAFE) included men for the first time at its meeting in December 2014, and men pledged to urge male colleagues to champion women. First actions were around mentoring. Historically men have feared being criticized or stigmatized for helping women get ahead. And even some women resent the help as making them look inferior.
At Cardinal Health, significant numbers of men have been attending the women’s networking group. The sales manager hopes his active recruitment of internal women for promotions will lead to more sales.
Rockwell Automation Inc. has developed “change inclusion teams mostly run by white men aimed toward accelerating retention and advancement of women and minorities. These have changed the nature of company socializing events for employees at the company or conferences.
American Express has instituted a mandatory one-time course for one division’s senior management on how men’s and women’s brains work differently and affect decision-making about going for promotions. Women now get more ongoing support both in seeking and after promotions.
A Dell male VP now tries to be conscious of how scheduling affects opportunities and has joined the women’s network, encouraging male colleagues to do so also.
These are good steps toward more gender equality. We need to see breaking down the silos between other diverse affinity groups as well. Generational collaboration is a great place to start since different generational attitudes inform and influence attitudes about other aspects of diversity and inclusion and individuals’ worldviews. Generations are the universal affinity.
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!
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
HAS THE MISSING PIECE ELUDED YOU? – Find the Inter-Generational Solution
Generational differences in attitudes inform and influence attitudes and behaviors toward all the other types of diversity and individuals’ worldviews. They are integral, “joined at the hip,” so to speak.
If you are approaching attracting and retaining clients of different generations all the same way
If you are approaching attracting and retaining employees of different generations all the same way
If you are pitching your fundraising, member drives and engaging alumni of different generations all the same way
If you think the members of multi-generational teams all have similar wants and expectations
If knowledge transfer among generations has more speed bumps than fast lanes
then you are missing the piece that makes the ultimate difference to your long-term success rate.
Most firms treat different types of diversity as separate silos and approach their programs as if one solution fits all and will make the crucial emotional connection that is necessary for attitude and behavior change and cultural transformation.
In the last several years, many organizations have realized that something different is going on and not going away, and their personnel need to learn about generational differences. Usually they bring in a speaker (sometimes that’s me) for an hour or so to explain the basics– and then check off the box that they addressed the issues.
It’s a good first step…but for real change to occur deepening understanding, repetition and practice is necessary. Savvy organizations are undertaking yearlong or longer initiatives and community building to address inter-generational challenges locally or globally, as relevant. That type of dedicated effort will earn them an advantage in recruiting and retaining both engaged employees and loyal clients/customers.
IBM and American Express have realized how central inter-generational initiatives are to productivity in their core businesses. IBM is leveraging learning resources and building employee communities in person and online in many countries to strengthen collaboration. With surveys and other means, IBM is assessing what different generations need and is providing recommendations to business units globally on attracting, developing and retaining talent of different generations. American Express, realizing that its shift in business strategy away from travel to financial services and other technology-oriented businesses required younger demographics, also has been focusing on inter-generational challenges.
Educational institutions are getting sensitive to the large demographic changes as at least a third of their faculty and administrative staff heads toward retirement age. For example, Cornell University’s Alumni Affairs & Development department, having done some generational programming in the past, is starting on a yearlong generational focus as one of its diversity initiatives required of all colleges and administrative units by the University.
Some of the strategies to include in your cross-generational diversity initiatives are:
Small facilitated group discussions
Educational materials and interactive courses appropriate to different markets
Mutual and reverse mentoring and mentoring circles
Significant roles for senior management as advocates and participants
Knowledge transfer and succession strategies
As firms, other organizations and institutions develop affinity or employee resource groups (ERGs) or business resource groups (BRGs) and other internal and cross-cultural communities, they need to be sure to cross-pollinate them. Just as gender diversity groups focused on furthering women’s careers and as leaders greatly benefit from bringing men into the conversation, diversity and inclusion initiatives for each specific focus need to bring all the generations into the conversation. Cross-generational conversations will facilitate understanding of all the views and attitudes that must be part of the solution and the pursuit of harmonious change.
Instead of “siloing,” make the cross-generational perspective the foundation piece.
Please comment and share your thoughts. Do you see this as a business imperative?
Watching the 50th Anniversary of the MLK March on
Washington, DC it’s hard not to feel the compelling power of a “movement.” Witness the power of convening all
those people of all ages and demographics in a common mission – to be there as a part of history.
Upon seeing the 1963 footage sprinkled throughout and
hearing those who were present that day and the historians comment, I was
struck by how important it is to teach and to remind people how things were –
in many ways, thankfully, drastically different. No time for complacency, we
need to reiterate how much still has to be done and broadened for a changed
Back then it was blacks (Negroes) and whites. Now the
diversity and the “march” for inclusion and equity encompasses race/ethnicity,
gender, LGBT, disability and generational diversity, and perhaps more. Generational diversity was not
mentioned in the speeches, but it was apparent viewing the crowds of marchers eager
to participate and as people sought to pass on the knowledge to younger
Dramatic events are necessary to bring focus to challenges
that are not recognized sufficiently for their economic, social, political and
cultural impact. With our cross-generational conversation we
can further understanding and collaborative action on the issues that matter in
our lives and at work.
About the pervasive integration of digital culture, one student
said, “It is only technology if it happened after you were born.” But I think it’s important to note that
it’s not a matter or tremendous tech savvy. Generation Y has been raised with technology
and its members are referred to as “digital natives” or “tech dependant” (which is different from “tech-savvy”. Gen Y is
not necessarily tech-savvy, as they tend to want their technology to be as
simple and straightforward as possible). They want to integrate technology into
all aspects of their lives, including work.
Here are the Gen Y/Millennial attributes Dr. Levine cites from the
– They view the primary purpose of education as “to get a good job and make
money” rather than following their passion or Milton Eisenhower’s (former
president of Johns Hopkins) advice that an undergraduate major teaches you how
to learn, and that’s most important.
mindset – They strongly favor diversity, and they tend to favor the same
celebrities and public figures as a group.
about themselves, but pessimistic about the future of the U.S. They were
always told they were great and expect grade inflation and praise.
fear of failure. They haven’t been taught to expect to fail, and resilience
is lacking. They feel the pressure of expectations that they will succeed.
constant touch with their parents, and they call on parents to help with
any difficulties and questions. Parents are heroes to many of them – and that would
seem to put pressure on parents to overdo attention.
how to have intimate relationships or crucial personal conversations.
Social life tends to be either in groups or a series of hook-ups.
Dr. Levine gives Gen Yers’ strengths as: digital skills;
interest in global issues; and dealing better with diversity than generations
In my follow up post, I will give some thoughts and
questions on what this all means.
True diversity includes diversity of thought, style
background and experience. We cannot have that in today world without age or
generational diversity. Most organizations, media and forums only focus on
dealing with gender, race/ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation
differences, yet true diversity is much more, and generational worldviews
influence many of the more traditional aspects of diversity.
Professor Martin Davidson of the University of Virginia
Darden School of Business and the school’s Diversity Director said in a talk to
Darden alumni that he thinks generational diversity is the aspect of diversity
that needs the most focus because of the critical need for knowledge transfer.
I would add to the business case
that: many institutions fear age discrimination lawsuits; and they need to
enhance their ability to attract, retain, communicate with and work with
clients and customers of different generations. Let’s be clear – generational
diversity and inter-generational relations are a serious and critical business
issue and shape our work and personal lives.
THEY SAY IT’S ALL IN OUR HEADS: Transitioning Life Stages
For those who think
Gen Y/Millennials lack a sense of responsibility, there is validation; for the
Gen Yers themselves, there’s an excuse. It’s their brains!
I am fascinated by
the brain research on health and human development as well as behavioral
economics – all related to what influences us to do what we do. In previous
writings, I have mentioned the relatively recently labeled new stage of life,
emerging adulthood or enduring adolescence, usually defined as age 18-29 (or
even to 34). Brain research now tells us there is scientific evidence that
explains some if the hesitation/reluctance to commit and mobility of Gen Yers.
Jeffrey J. Arnett,
a professor at Clark University which recently concluded a nationwide poll of
over 1,000 young adults, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal (8/21/12): “It
should be reassuring for parents to know that it’s very typical in the 20s not
to know what you’re going to do.”
The brain is still unfinished in early adulthood. The upside of that is
it allows us to adapt to changing environments and learning things like new
languages that are more difficult later on. So today’s Gen Yers benefit from
things that are cognitively stimulating. This explanation offers both good and
bad news to employers.
Dr. Arnett advises parents
“It pays to relax and not panic because your 21-year-old, or even your 26-year
–old doesn’t know what he or she is going to do. Almost nobody still has that
problem at 40 or 50. We all figure it out eventually.”
Do we figure it all
out by our 40s and 50s? Is the midlife crisis a myth, not to mention career
transitions? A lot of Boomers are determined to keep growing and re-inventing.
In this fast changing world, we all need to keep “figuring it out.” And
employers and the workplace must be open to change.