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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

BEST LEADERS FOR MILLENNIALS: A GEN Y‘S ANALYSIS

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?

Thanks for joining the conversation.

 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

TRANSITIONING YEARS AND GENERATIONAL PERSPECTIVES

Looking to a new year with thanks!

It’s almost time for the ball to drop for 2014, so don’t drop the ball.

Whether yours was a lucky ’13 or not, I hope you are excited about your future. What new challenge will you take on? What problem are you determined to solve? What new skill or knowledge will you acquire? What knowledge will you pass on to a younger – or older – colleague?

In 2013 I thought big, as I developed the Cross-Generational Conversation Day concept to raise awareness of the implications of inter-generational challenges at work on business success and our lives. I am grateful for the enthusiastic reception to the concept and plans. Now in 2014, it’s time to execute! Stay tuned for our research and more information as to how you and your organization can get involved.

Since I have always been future-oriented, I look optimistically onward – but not before thanking our wonderful past and current clients, the Cross-Generational Conversation Day Planning Committee, The Cross-Generational Conversation LinkedIn Group community, social media followers, my MasterMind Group, great friends and family and YOU – my valued readers.

 I urge you to light up the lives of people around you, especially in person. Start the new year with some great cross-generational conversations, and let us know if and how it changes your perspective and how you want to connect. Keep smiling, doing great work and spreading joy!

Warmly and thankfully, Phyllis

 Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

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