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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

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

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?

 Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

A MOVEMENT INVITES INCLUSION

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 population.

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 generations.

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.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

 

 

A GENERATION’S WORLDVIEW FROM THE CAMPUS

A new book based on surveys from 2006-2011 of undergraduates and student affairs officials on 270 U.S. college campuses, “Generation on a Tightrope: A Portrait of Today’s College Student,” fills in some new details and reinforces the presence of attributes we have recognized for a while regarding Gen Y/Millennials. Given the years cited, the data focuses on the younger half of this generation.

The book was written by Arthur Levine, former president of Columbia Teachers’ College and now president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, with Diane R. Deane. Dr. Levine related key findings of the surveys in an interview in the New York Times Book Review (November 4, 2012).

He mentioned the 4 most key events in this cohort’s lives in order of significance, some of which were surprising to him:

  1. The advent of digital culture
  2. The economy
  3. 9/11
  4. The election of President Obama

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 surveys.

  • Pragmatic – 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.
  • Diversity mindset – They strongly favor diversity, and they tend to favor the same celebrities and public figures as a group.
  • Optimistic about themselves, but pessimistic about the future of the U.S. They were always told they were great and expect grade inflation and praise.
  • A great 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.
  • In 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.
  • Don’t know 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 before them.

In my follow up post, I will give some thoughts and questions on what this all means.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com 

 

THE BUSINESS CASE: #GENERATIONAL DIVERSITY No.1

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.

 Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsrl.com

BAD NEWS ON WOMEN’S NETWORKS and generations and gender diversity

The Wall Street Journal reported on a Simmons School of Management survey of 166 female professionals, all of whom had women’s support groups at their workplace. The news was quite disheartening in terms of the overall attitude toward the groups, participation and results.

But first the good news: what worked. The women who said they were actively involved in the women’s networks and thought they were very effective described these characteristics of the groups: They met frequently, had financial support from the company – and they were open to both men and women.

Now the bad news. 29% of the women responding were not involved in any workplace women’s network. Most said they didn’t have the time. Other reasons given were they didn’t share the network’s goals or they didn’t see the value or they weren’t eligible. Another 16% beyond those 29% were a member of a network at their organization but rarely got involved. And of those belonging, more than 75% found their networks only somewhat or not at all effective in meeting the group’s goals. Goals most often included networking, retention and promotion of women and professional development.

What are we to conclude? Perhaps the formation of many women’s networks is still a matter of lip service on the part of senior management, or at least believed to be by many women. Maybe they are getting mixed messages: "We’ll let you form women’s networks, but you’ll be rewarded by other uses of your time." And if the more senior women are not committed to regularly attend, younger women may take their lead from them or feel the value is much reduced without the mentoring possibilities from more experienced professionals.

Going back to the networks that were effective, the reasons are no surprise. For women’s networks to be taken seriously in a still male-dominated culture as far as clout is concerned, there has to be solid and visible support from management, and that includes financial support as well as praising and otherwise recognizing the active members of the networks and their accomplishments. Frequent meetings are needed to establish bonds and trust and build confidence among members.

And, I think, very important (as I have said for many years), men must be part of the process. They need to be welcomed to help and sponsor the women as well as to learn from them. Attending some of the meetings will enable them to better understand how diversity strengthens the organization and what the obstacles are. Gender separation is not a long-term solution. And generationally there are different views on gender separation. To generalize, the Gen Y/Millennials and youngest Gen Xers don’t recognize the gender differences as much as the older generations and have different expectations about how they will be treated.

I hope to see women adjust their approach and attitudes toward women’s networks and get real buy-in from male colleagues so they can be more effective in reaching stated goals and the day when they will no longer be considered necessary because the goals have been achieved.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

 

GEN Y RAISES THE BAR ON DIVERSITY

The Transformative Effect of Millennials/Gen Y

As a Cornell University Council member, I just spent 3 days on campus in Ithaca, NY at Trustee-Council Annual Meeting involved in a myriad of inspiring, intellectually stimulating, celebratory, and fun meetings, panels and activities. At least equally important was strengthening relationships with fellow alumni, faculty and staff and making new friends. When you have a strong community like that, you feel good and want to do good.

During that time, we heard so much from and about the positive attitude and amazing activities of the students. The one aspect I want to report here and now is the demand for diversity – all kinds. Just about every college in the U.S. is making efforts to recruit a diverse student population. As in the workplace, recruiting underrepresented minorities is easier than retaining them, owing to lack of critical mass and role models, unconscious bias, and insufficient supportive community networks and relevant, easily accessible information.

Both faculty and administrative staff reiterated their observations that confirm a significant attribute of the Gen Y/Millennial generation – the most diverse in history: diversity is expected; inclusion is a must. They said that students are pushing for diversity action and pioneering on their own. Students come to campus with both personal curiosity about people who are different from them and recognition that they need inter-cultural skills for their careers and their lives. They are not waiting for institutions to lead the way. Staff will step up to support them. University administrative staff expect a transformative effect on campus.

That is exciting. And beyond the campuses, employers must recognize the need to go beyond the existing steps to embrace diversity. Transformation is needed in the workplace as well to capitalize on the creativity and energy of the young generation as a competitive force. If not, they will not be able to retain the talent and engagement that increases productivity and innovation. 

Phyllis Weiss Haserot      www.pdcounsel.com 

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