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HOW TO UNBLOCK THE GENERATIONAL GRIDLOCK PROBLEM

 

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I am frequently asked about the potential for conflict between older and younger people in the workplace “Why won’t those Boomers realize it’s time to go?” some of them think.

Boomers are sticking around for two credible reasons: 1) they like the fulfillment, feeling of making a contribution, challenge and social opportunities work brings; and 2) they may very well need the money. In some cases there is a third reason as well: uncertainty that successors are well prepared to shoulder their greater responsibilities.

Economic reality meets career desires. The Great Recession had given many organizations a breather from brain-drain threats. At the same time, many Boomers would like to keep on working for a long time more, even if they can afford to retire. Surveys in 2004 and 2005 when the economy was robust and retirement funds were healthy revealed that about 80% of Boomers wanted to keep working after age 65 in some capacity – reinventing retirement.

While personal priorities will dominate each individual’s decisions, there’s a bigger picture need for restructuring. Even if we should see a booming economy, things won’t go back to what they were 20 years ago because the generational cohorts have different worldviews and expectations for their careers and work lives. And, significantly, they don’t understand each other’s perspectives and influences very well. When that understanding is achieved and accepted on an emotional level, we can move to greater cross-generational respect and collaboration.

REMOVING POTENTIAL CONFLICT

Achieve role shifts and transitioning that benefits clients/customers and the organization as a whole. I am not in favor of involuntarily removing productive people, who do not wish to retire. Yet for the sake of providing opportunities to the generation waiting in line, senior professionals’ and executives roles and responsibilities need to shift at some point.

Shifted roles must come with respect attached. The transitioning process requires employers to rethink value and compensation for functions that were assumed to be provided gratis in the context of professional roles. Too often financial rewards come only from performing other functions that leave little time for knowledge transfer, mentoring, training and coaching. Financial disincentives need to be eliminated to reduce conflict.

And oh by the way – a word to Boomers and senior professionals: Gen Y/Millennials have discovered and seek out role shifts and lateral/lattice moves that keep them learning and doing new things. It energizes, engages and provides more choices and marketability for the long term. So why not take a lesson from them and explore that avenue to extend a career while giving those experienced and waiting a chance to move up? Consider it an opportunity.

The trick is to capitalize on Boomer knowledge and experience without alienating the bottlenecked Gen Xers and later, Millennials. One answer is to pay Boomers still in place now to transition their valuable acquired wisdom, contacts and skills before they up and leave with these precious assets or fail to pass on the baton and client bonds. That will prepare Gen Xers to thrive when the bottleneck opens as Boomers transition out over time.

If knowledge transfer and coaching is not built into transitioning roles which are made attractive by according them respect and providing work/life flexibility and engaging challenges, how will the next generation of leaders and managers get prepared to succeed? Willingness to prepare the next generation and shift roles through gradual transition can avoid generational conflict as both generations reap the benefits.

The real enduring challenge is building sustainably strong organizations that engage and retain the most productive talent of every generation. It will take frequent dialogue, listening, mutual mentoring and empathy. Organizations have to assess and re-think the connections between attitudes and expectations and the policies and financial and non-financial incentives that foster attitudes in order to prevent tensions among the generations and provide continuing opportunities for all to make meaningful contributions.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

 

KEY ISSUES TO TACKLE IN THE MULTIGENERATIONAL WORKPLACE NOW

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Earlier this summer I was interviewed for a research project and master’s thesis by an EY (rebranded from Ernest & Young) Fellow in Ireland. For one of the questions, I generated a long list that provides an overview of challenges in the current multi-generational workplace. I am happy to share this with you.

Q. What do you feel are key issues affecting the multi-generational workplace at present?

A.  I easily named over a dozen issues, challenges and frustrations:

  • Senior management/decision-makers not “getting” the significant direct impact of generational challenges on the bottom line on their business.
  • Making mutigenerational teams better appreciate each member and work more effectively together.
  • Sharing and transferring knowledge – owing to compensation systems, lack of know-how and/or cultural resistance
  • Attracting and retaining clients/customers of different generations – and not taking different approaches
  • Attracting and retaining employees of different generations  - not using different approaches to meet their needs and expectations
  • Knowing when facetime is necessary and when not
  • Different generational perceptions of what teamwork is and what’s in it for them
  • Doing an effective job of orienting new employees, conveying the big picture vision and setting elear expectations
  • Comfort level with feedback and how to do it right – both giving and receiving
  • Avoiding turnover of valuable employees
  • Communicating messages that are received as intended by each generation
  • Excluding younger generation voices on leadership from succession planning
  • Tensions when older workers report to younger managers

No doubt this is a long list with much to tackle. Of course, not all of these are present in all firms/organizations or to the same degreee.

Which issues – or others – are occurring in your workplace or do you see elsewhere?

Please comment about which of these challenges and solutions to them you’d like to know more about to pwhaserot@pdcounsel.com or the Cross-Generational Conversation group on LinkedIn.

Let’s begin cross-generational conversation about these issues toward making more workplaces “best places to work.”

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

 

Birth of a Vision: THE ORIGIN OF CROSS-GENERATIONAL CONVERSATION DAY

Have you ever found yourself literally bolt up awakened by an idea that just kept coming and wouldn’t quit?

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My inspiration for Cross-Generational Conversation Day was the stunning example of determination and resiliency of a 36-year-old friend and star teacher, Karri Ankrom, to jump back into life after episodes of a series of daunting illnesses. The idea of declaring a “Day” literally woke me up with a fountain of details pouring out of my head. It was the morning after celebrating an almost miraculous “recovery” of her then most serious set of medical complications.

Somehow my subconscious associated the two – or probably relieved of the immediate worry, freed me to birth the idea I had conceived of two months before, told one person, and then forgot about. The mind can be full of surprise associations!…. I felt if she could persevere facing all her difficulties, I can be committed enough to implement my vision. It and she continue to inspire me.

Once it was quickly outlined in mind-maps and notes on two pages of lined yellow paper, I was determined to take the concept to reality 

I know in my gut that the world and virtually every organization need cross-generational conversation as an integral part of its culture and business model. I had been working on programs and using the phrase in consulting work, writing and speaking for several years. What would create more awareness and urgency for more action in all types of organizations? We needed something dramatic – a focal point, a trigger that would capture attention… So unanticipated, the “Day” concept was born!

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Think about it! What is it worth to you to invest a day or even half a day of your team’s time if the outcome would be greater insight, productivity and reputation as a best place to work for the top talent in all generations? 

Contact me to find out more about Cross-Generational Conversation Day and prepare to participate in this groundbreaking process of multi-generational insight and collaboration to grow engagement, competitive position and revenue. 

pwhaserot@pdcounsel.com    www.pdounsel.com

Are Tech Companies Avoiding the Age Diversity Issue?

Tech companies in general have a reputation for preferring young employees, whether or not they are really more tech savvy than older, experienced individuals. This is especially true in the Silicon Valley area culture.

When the San Francisco Chronicle requested employees' age data from the seven tech companies that have recently released diversity reports - Google, Pinterest, Salesforce, Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook and LinkedIn - as well as more than a dozen others, they either declined to provide the information or did not respond to the request.

Only Hewlett-Packard, shared information related to workforce age. A substantial number for a tech company, about 18%, are over 51 (Boomers); more than half are between 31 and 50 (mostly Gen Xers), and a 25% of HP’s U.S. employees are 30 or younger (Gen Y/Millennials).

"Age is one very important demographic that signals whether or not a company has an inclusive culture,” said Freada Kapor Klein of the Kapor Center for Social Impact. “ It's important alongside race, gender and sexual orientation."

Of 32 tech companies surveyed by PayScale last year, only six, which included long established companies IBM and Dell, had a workforce with a workforce median age of over 35. Only two companies the San Francisco Chronicle queried about median age, Autodesk (median 40) and Cisco (median 401/2), provided data.

The San Francisco Chronicle has recently requested diversity data from all the well known tech companies in Silicon Valley and received either sparse or no data from them. Very few responded they would release data and virtually none on age diversity.

We understand that data gathering requires some effort. But the lack of it or reluctance to release it gives the impression that the companies don’t regard having a diversity of ages in the workforce as important and valuable or they are protecting a culture of youth exclusivity. With authenticity and transparency rising in value and values today, what’s the real explanation?

BOOMERS STILL WANT TO WORK

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.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

THE #GENERATION OF “1776”

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!

 

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?

Please comment and add your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

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?

Please comment and share your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com 

BEYOND MILLENNIAL

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.

It’s worth contemplating…

Your thoughts? Please comment.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

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

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