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KEY ISSUES TO TACKLE IN THE MULTIGENERATIONAL WORKPLACE NOW

Maze

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

 

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

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

 

YOUNG GENERATIONS’ APPROACH TO PHILANTHROPY

For some time I have been following the philanthropic and legacy efforts of Generations X and Y and how they differ from Traditionalists and Boomer generations in general. Also I’ve been advising on conflicting approaches within families that financial advisors and planners often need to address with their clients. So the report “Next Gen Donors: Respecting Legacy, Revolutionizing Philanthropy” by 21/64 and the Johnson Center for Philanthropy caught my interest. I found the conclusions align pretty much with my more limited research and my experiences working with inter-generational workplace issues.

The examples of what twenty-somethings are doing are quite enlightening. As always they want to do it their own new way, not only in their use of technology, but also in making it about connecting with other people. Though some of the young people I worked or spoke with had substantial wealth, most others were finding ways to donate very limited assets and make them add up to become very meaningful contributions.

Here are the typical elements I noticed concerning this philanthropic activities.

  • The younger generations are looking for an “experience.”
  • They prefer ongoing involvement rather than an annual event.
  • What really juices many of them is to be able to connect directly to the recipient of their contribution
  • They use e-mail blasts to urge everyone they have ever come in contact with to join in. They are very open in their connections and it’s all about connecting.
  • They like voting for “the person who contributes the most…” and cash awards and recognition.
  • They are drawn to compete in contests; they like competitions and prizes.

According to Sharna Goldseker, Managing Director of 21/64, consultants on strategic philanthropy and the generations, beneath the surface of much of the under 35-year-old involvement in philanthropic projects is a search for their own identity.

Keep in mind that the Gen Y way is another search for community much as Gen X did, but perhaps for different reasons and with a desire for individual attention. Gen X originally sought community at work because it was missing for them outside of work. Gen Y has been educated in a more collaborative environment and it is their modus operandi.

I definitely see the desire to be hands on and to produce measurable change with their giving. Interestingly, this has been characteristic of the Boomer generation of women donors and something I personally very much relate to. All my professional life I have observed that women donors don’t simply want to write checks.

As for the under 35 year olds in families with foundations desiring to maintain family bonds as philanthropists, that is not surprising. Gen X and Yers are typically quite family-centric. The tension comes.from wanting to have a strong voice and their own style of philanthropy while maintaining family harmony

Millennials don’t think they have to wait to be older and richer. They think they can make meaningful contributions right away, and they do it creatively with new methods and tools.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot     www.pdcounsel.com.

EXCUSES TO AVOID SUCCESSION PLANNING

It’s not a secret that the majority of organizations are not doing succession planning and certainly not doing it below the highest levels though they give a lot of lip service as to how important it is. Many of those that do some sort of succession planning hold the process and the chosen successors close to the vest.

Why do organizations closely guard their succession plans? Several surveys cited in an article on Human Resources Executive Online indicate that the reasons are often based on internal forces as much as external ones.

So the reasoning behind the lack of succession planning is complicated. An article from HRE Online discusses a variety of rationales, including lack of transparency. These exist in companies of all sizes and at all levels, not just the C-Suite. The “secrecy” may be attributed to:

  • Business competition and not wanting external competitors to know their plans.
  • There may not be an actual succession plan.
  • They fear those not on the list of candidates may become disengaged and disgruntled.
  • Fear that another division in the company may poach the designated successor for its team.
  • Circumstances may change affecting strategy and who is best to implement it.
  • Top leaders may want to retain the flexibility to change the list of candidates.

Organizations grapple with not only whether or not to make the process transparent, but also if they should let the high potential candidates know they are being considered. The risk of telling them is they may get to feel entitled and others may feel disenfranchised and that they are not getting development attention. Whether or not the candidates are told of their status, the criteria for choosing successors should be specific, performance-based and widely communicated throughout the organization.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot     www.pdcounsel.com

 

BETTING ON THE UNKNOWN. HOPING POTENTIAL ACHIEVES GREATNESS?

Good news for the younger generation? Does this explain high salaries large firms pay to inexperienced law school grads?

As reported by the Wall Street Journal (7.25.12) a study by Stanford and Harvard scholars that consisted of 8 experiments with people in a wide variety of settings found they get more excited about individuals with promise and potential than they do about those with an actual proven performance record. Further, people are more willing to hire and pay more for the individuals with high potential.

The researchers could only speculate as to why this is so, but the findings were consistent.

Is uncertainty more appealing, the gamble that the high potential individual will achieve greatness? What do you think?

 

PROFESSIONAL PARTNERSHIP TRANSITIONING PREDICAMENTS

My guest blogger for this post is Brannon Poe, CPA of Poe Group Advisors in Charleston, SC, who advises accounting practices on practice management and selling their practices and author of Accountant’s Flight Plan.

There are two dilemmas that rattle the human skull: How do you hang on to

someone who won't stay? And how do you get rid of someone who won't go?

Danny DeVito, in The War of the Roses

When it comes to practice sales, timing is everything. It’s rare for practice partners to have the same exit timetable. Tensions mount when one partner wants out and the remaining partner either doesn’t want to buy the business or sell to a third party. If partners are the same age, the odds for a smooth dissolution are improved, but even a couple of years’ difference can strain a sale. 

In a small practice, the process of selling or retiring is complicated for both the senior and junior partner in question. Motivations are completely opposed. The senior partner is ready to move on, while the junior member is often very resistant—understandably apprehensive about the changes this will mean for the business’s operation and his or her livelihood. Change is rarely welcome, and taking on a new outside partner can be a frightening prospect, as is the possibility of running the practice without the senior partner. Finding the right replacement partner is far easier said than done—just ask any departing partner who has tried to please an objection-filled remaining partner! Sometimes the junior partner is empowered by this naysayer role, and any perceived previous injustices seem to rise to the surface as negotiations move forward.

Making someone a partner is a significant step, one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you feel that partnership is the right path for your practice, great care should be given to selecting an attorney who can help structure your partnership agreement. This contract should clearly address exit strategies by any one or a group of partners. Excellent legal advice at this juncture is one of the best investments you’ll ever make.

Spend some time and money on your partnership agreement and make sure the lawyer you use has significant experience in this area. You’ll be glad you did.

Brannon Poe, CPA

www.poegroupadvisors.com

The above is an excerpt from Accountant’s Flight Plan, Best Practices for Today’s Firms.

 

MANAGING THE RISK OF MID-LEVEL SCARCITY - Suggestions

I ended the last post saying once again organizations have to play catch up, figure out how to replace the mid-level talent and engage them in fostering the younger talent, many of whom are eager to leapfrog them. There is no quick fix, but here are some thoughts on aligning management of the risks discussed in the earlier post and talent management.

  • When hiring, really think fit and attitude before skills on a resume. You’ve probably heard that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
  • Hire people who buy into an articulated belief system that includes instilling the good behavior and belief system and the professional development of young talent.
  • Make that an explicit part of the job description and reward system. Some of the large accounting firms as well as “best place to work” companies do this.
  • Facilitate dialogues among the different generations to avoid/eliminate friction when mid-level Gen Xers are asked to supervise and mentor Gen Y/Millennials and Boomers to do the same for Gen Xers.
  • Avoid decimating or sharply reducing mid-level personnel during economic downturns. Instead, selectively offer reduced schedules at reduced pay to minimize lay-offs of valued talent and maintain a consistent competency level during economic cycles. Clients hate turnover and want to see familiar faces.
  • Cross-train people to take on other roles when their work slows, including training and coaching junior staff.

Firms must figure out how to better manage the risk of talent and skills shortages. The past record has been far from stellar. Ability to maintain high professional standards in serving, and thereby retaining, clients is at stake. That’s too big a risk to warrant inaction, especially since change happens faster than ever.

Please share you thoughts in the comments section.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

 

 

SAME OLD TUNE: SUCCESSION PLANNING STILL LAGS

Nearly one-third (31 percent) of companies with more than 1,000 employees said they don’t currently have a succession planning program at their organization. This was reported in a new Career Builders survey. 50 percent of senior management (CEO, CFO, Senior VP, etc.) and 52 percent of those in a vice president position said they do not have a successor for their current role.

Responses when asked what is lacking in their current succession planning program:

  •     Not enough opportunities for employees to learn beyond their own roles – 39 percent
  •     Process isn’t formalized – 38 percent
  •     Not enough investment in training and development – 33 percent
  •     Not actively involving employees or seeking their input – 31 percent
  •     It only focuses on top executives – 29 percent

Managers also reported that workers’ awareness of and input on their own succession planning is important. Forty-nine percent of employers said employees don’t set up career paths with their managers with timelines and milestones.

Still a top HR priority. Still little positive action.

The neglect of career planning is going to bite as the economy comes back to life and people have more options.  High potential personnel will be waving bye-bye for the places that promise an appealing career path at any age.

 

 

LIP SERVICE WON’T RESULT IN A SUCCESSION PLANNING AND TRANSITIONING WINNER

The American Management Association (AMA) surveyed 1,098 senior managers and executives in December 2010, and released the results in late March 2011. 43% said their senior management team is “sporadic in its commitment” to succession planning, 34% said their team is “genuinely committed,” while 14% said their team just “pays lip service” to succession planning. So at least 66% are not “genuinely committed” and working on their succession plans for all positions that are critical to avoid business disruption.

 This is a critical issue for Fortune 500 businesses, where 1 in 5 executives are reaching retirement age with no named successor in sight. It is also critical for professional firms, whose main assets walk out the door every night, and not-for-profits and many other types of institutions as well as small business.

Why is so much succession planning talk just lip service? Why does a process so obviously an asset in avoiding business disruption and client defections so widely resisted?

There’s a lot of denial underlying the widespread inaction. To varying degrees I believe it’s about:

  • Individual’s, particularly Baby Boomers now, fear of losing influence, clout with colleagues and clients;
  • Fear of change of direction, personalities and policies;
  • Reluctance to admit that talent will defect
  • Unwillingness to confront mortality

Can you add other reasons?  Please do comment.

One solution is to establish an ongoing process for succession planning and transitioning as an institutional and cultural expectation. That becomes an integral part of the business model and is applicable to everyone. It’s not a personal judgment. It’s a business imperative and a foundation for sustainable success.

Enough of silence and lip service.

Submit your comments here. Thanks!

Phyllis Weiss Haserot     www.pdcounsel.com

 

 

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