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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

ROLES FOR PROFESSIONAL FIRM SENIOR PARTNERS TRANSITIONING THEIR PRACTICES

When senior professionals who are used to being in charge must make way for new leadership, they may be able to stay productive in valuable new roles for the firm.

Here are some that have been developed at our client firms or that we know of, or we suggest:

*  Chief Learning Officer (professional development)

*  Chief Diversity Officer

*  Administrative Partner for a practice group

*  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.

(c) Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

Note: This blog is an excerpt from the 2014 edition of The Rainmaking Machine by Phyllis Weiss Haserot (Thomson Reuters/Westlaw) to be published summer 2014.

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

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

ACROSS GENERATIONS, LEADERS LACK INTERACTION SKILLS AND BEHAVIORS

A recent DDI study, Driving Workplace Performance through High-Quality Conversations, found both front-line and senior leaders lack fundamental interaction skills and behaviors required to be effective leaders. The study report concludes that what’s missing “is the ability to facilitate effective conversations, something that should be mastered by every business leader as part of a core set of interaction skills in order to build relationships and get work done.” This is at least as true of senior leaders as those with less experience according to the study.

The need to learn the skill of conversation is a challenge to the fast-paced, just get it done, data-driven world we are living in. Even some technology thought leaders are sounding the alarm. We have been champions of cross-generational conversation as necessary for business productivity and profitability since it is essential for knowledge transfer, attracting and retaining both clients and employees and enabling work teams to achieve high performance.

 Organizations need to recognize that the skill of conversation is not typically part of business education, and they must require or provide training, especially as all generations increasingly communicate electronically and often neglect context.

 Please comment and share information on any organizations you know are providing this training in-house. If you would like to learn about Cross-Generational Conversation Day, contact us (pwhaserot@pdcounsel.com).

 Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

10 PROBLEMS WITH THE CURRENT DESIGN OF WORK

Each generation’s view of work and how it will best engage them and motivate them to be most productive has changed. But the design of work and work processes has not changed adequately with the times. From surveys, observations and discussions, here are the key issues I see:

  • Neglecting to make work continually perceived as meaningful to workers.
  • Not providing opportunities for all to learn and grow.
  • Recognition and feedback not closely timed and aligned to the event.
  • Metrics that are counter to goals and motivation, e.g., time-based rather than results-based.
  • Uniform facetime demands without rational reasons for them.
  • People showing lack of respect or not understanding what respect of others requires.
  • Differing and unclear definitions of professionalism.
  • Not encouraging input on work design and process from all participants: generations and levels.
  • Hierarchical titles that divide rather than include and encourage collaboration.
  • Not considering who wants and who doesn’t want more challenge and increased responsibility in their work so they are appropriately motivated.

In future posts I will suggest strategies and steps to redesign work so it will work better for all generations.

Please add or comment on other problems you see – or those above that you don’t think are problems. Let’s have a conversation on this significant issue ripe for change.

WHAT REWARDS DRIVE EACH GENERATION

A recent study conducted by Harris/Decima for Ceridian) found that job rewards of various types favored by different generations are a strong driver of engagement. The three top drivers overall are:

1 – receiving monetary or non-monetary rewards for a job well done (47%)

2 – job recognition (42%)

3 – job motivation (11%)

 What specific employees value must align with the rewards to be effective. Rewards must be tailored to consider generational differences, individual preferences and technological innovation. There are several types of popular non-monetary rewards, and Gen Y/Millennials are more interested in them than the other generations. 70% of Gen Yers in the survey said they would like their company to offer non-monetary rewards such: as personal days off: free meals: sports events, concert and show tickets.

 Fundamentally, employers need to know what employees think makes a job worthwhile. All generations want interesting work (39%), autonomy (32%) and good compensation (31%) but in differing order of priority. Interesting work ranks first for Gen Y and Boomers. Gen X is most interested in good salary followed by good job benefits.

 Generational opinions of what makes the job more rewarding also differed in how they ranked the top four overall. Boomers find training opportunities and flexible hours more rewarding; Gen Xers also most favor flexible hours; and Gen Yers are more likely to want the opportunity to take o more responsibility at work.

 This is a heads up for employers to take into account generational differences and wants and needs if they want to have more productive workforces, retain their people and be considered best places to work.

 Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com  

INNOVATION AND MULTI-GENERATIONAL SUCCESSION PLANNING

Does your organization have multi-level succession plans in place?

My recent workshop on the human side of succession planning and knowledge transfer got me thinking about it in relation to inter-generational relations and innovation.

If you recognize that you need to keep the big picture in mind and what's coming down the road in two or three years, since change happens ever faster, innovation and succession planning - both future-oriented functions - go hand-in-hand. A future -oriented management style understands and encourages taking reasonable and educated risks to come up with novel solutions. It fosters an organization-wide environment of innovation. According to Judy Estrin, former chief technology officer at Cisco Systems, five core values need to be instilled in the organizational mindset: questioning, risk-taking, openness, patience and trust.

And the company should not just create silos of innovation by designating an innovation group - the 'big-thinkers." What if any of those big-thinkers leaves or gets laid off?

Here's where we circle back to succession planning. It must be future-oriented rather than a search for clones of even very successful leaders, managers or vital technicians. It must include encouraging new ideas from younger generations and their view of the world and the marketplace. What do they think are attributes and skills needed by future leaders? What do they think the business challenges will be when they are moving into the current managers' shoes? What will the market, composed in large measure of their peers, need and demand in products and services? What do they need to learn to be ready?

Succession planning should be a continual process at any time. People in critical positions can be lost at any time for good or bad, happy or sad reasons. In down economies and times of crisis, the need to have succession plans in place in advance is even more crucial because there is less time to identify the best leaders for the circumstances and gear up to meet the challenges. You can’t rely on going outside, quickly finding the right people and immediately bring them up to speed.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

 

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