Martes, Agosto 17, 2010

How to Lead When the Generation Gap Becomes Your Everyday Reality- An Analysis- originally written by Jolito Ortizo Padilla

Do you ever feel as if you're speaking Sanskrit to a workforce that only understands text messaging. (I have experience this during my years in the Middle East.)
" What we have in Asia and Middle East organizations today is a diverse group of workers with differences in attitude affecting everything from recruiting, building teams, dealing with change, motivating, managing and increasing productivity. The differences in attitudes are primarily caused by the difference in their respective generations," writes Sativa Ross.

We all are aware that the different generations in the workplace have different values and mind-sets. We also know that the generational mix is making leadership more complex. What seems less understood is how to lead these different generations in a way that promotes harmony, productivity, and mutual respect.

According to Renee Taylor, chief of staff at AT&T, Millennials currently make up 11 percent of the company workforce. The remainder is 39 percent Gen X and 50 percent Baby Boomers. She believes that "understanding the different values between the generations helps (leaders) to adapt the way they work with others and create a more cohesive team environment.

Arguably , the most challenging age group for current leaders is the Millennials, who also are referred to as "Gen Y" because of how often they want to know, "Why?"They differ from other three generations in such profound ways that using tried and true approaches to leading them are not successful.

Successfully Leading Different Generations

Current leaders would be wise to assess their leadership style, knowledge of the different generations, and personal attitudes toward the different members of their workforce. The following questions can serve as a basis for evaluating personal perspectives and approaches:
. What differentaition each generation?
. Which generations are you responsible for leading?
. How do generational differences impact your perceptions and leadership styles?
. How can you lead intra-generational and intergenerational groups?
. What can you do as a leader to foster mixed generational dialogue and problem solving?
. Which generation has the strongest impact on your organization? Is your organization more like Toyota or Google?
. How do the major aspects of your organization's culture ("generation bias"), align more with one generation than on the others? How does that generation-bias impact inclusion , recruitment, retention, and development of employees.

The Four Generation in the Workplace

Lathough describing an entire generation's characteristics involves some stereotyping, it also is true that each generation demonstrates similar characteristics. Sociologist Morris Massey points out that "the influence of the events (people) lived through creates a collective personality of sorts."

The oldest generational group, born between 1925 and 1945, is the Silent Generation. Also called Traditionalists, Senior, Veterans, this group values hard work , conformity, dedication, sacrifice, and patience. Members of this generation are comfortable with delayed recognition and reward.

The largest group in the workforce is the Baby Boomers. Born between 1946 and 1964, Boomers are characteristically optimistic and team oriented. They place a high value on their work ethics while also seeking personal gratification and growth.

The smallest group in size is Generation X, which laso known as the Sandwich Generation because of its position between the two largest groups. These folks were born between 1965 and 1980 and were the first "latchkey" kids. They are self reliant, global thinkers who value balance, fun and informality.

Millennials were born between 1981 and 2000, and ultimately will become the largest group. Even though less than half of them are presently in the workforce, they already are having a significant impact on organizational leadership. Members of this organization exhibit confidence, optimism , civic duty, sociability, street marts, inclusivity, collaboration, and openmindedness. They tend to be goal oriented.

Specific Things to Know About Millennials

Of course, most of today's organizationa leaders represent the Silent Generation or Baby Boomers. Over the past 40 years, these two generations have learned to work together. Many members of both these generations struggle to some degree when interacting with Genrations X'ers and Millennilas. Of course, with each progressive generation the gap becomes greater; therefore, to optimize interactions current leaders have much to learn about the youngest group now entering the workforce.

Here are 10 things about the Millennial generation that leaders should know:
1. In the United States , 95 million people were born into this genration compared to 78 million for the Baby Boomer generation.
2. Technology is hard-wired into this generation, and they live with constant technological stimulation. It is peripheral to their experience. One consequence of living in such a world is a resetting of the internal clock.What was considered fast is now experienced as slow.With technological speed increasing exponentially every year, Millennials seem to have little patience for meetings, discussions, or other structured gatherings;this is especially true if they cannot see the relevance of the meeting or the need to participate.
3. They need ongoing feedback. My son Job is a Millenial graduate student who cautions leaders " to be sure you are providing enough feedback. Millennials are used to immediate feedback , but you should try to be more immediate." Jason Lee of Toshiba , also advocates giving constant feedback. " You might not always use it, but the regular asking for it is important. Not just in annual or quarterly increments either. I mean daily."
4. Millennials are multitaskers. Not only do they have difficulty focusing on a single task for an extended time, they also see no reason to limit their focus to one thing at a time.
5. Mira Furt, former outplacement specialist and founder of We Lead Now! believes there are serious generational issues around a performance feedback. "For most of my generation of Boomers, no news usually means 'so far so good. I still have a job.' To Gen Y, the absence of feedback 'is interpreted as no one cares!' It is unusual for people to find out that their contributiion is seen as valuable when they announce that they are leaving for another job.
6. Millennials social norms are different form other generations. Where Boomers , Xers, and Seniors might agree that asking sbout other peoples' salary at a job interview is a breach of etiqutte, Gen Ys have no qualms about inquiring after intimate details. As a result of their experience with social media sites such as Facebook, My Space and Tweeter (though my second son Jol, don't like me to have any of these) they are accustomed to much greater level of personal transparency than other generations.
Organizational advisor Tereo Yokohama sees downside to the way members of Gen Y interact with others, "Older groups were forced to interact with humans directly rather than texting, tweeting, etc. In person, Millennials seem far less able to read nonverbal cues, understand social context cues for determining appropriate communications, and follow social graces of gratitude and civility.
7. The concept of " workplace" is different for Millennilas than for other groups. with wireless technology , a seat in a coffee shop or airport can be as a cubicle. To them, it is more important to get the job done than where it gets done.
8. Self confidence is very evident in Millennials. They alaways recieved encouragement to take on the world and to believe in themselves. In her article," Managing Millennials," Claire Raines points out that this group has "always felt sought-after, needed and indespensible." The same characteristics also can lead to describing their behavior as entitled or disrespectful.
9. Millennials function well in teams. Their experience has shown them that a team can accomplish more than an individual. This offers an opportunity to mentor and train Millennials as a team rather than as individuals.
This generation brings skills to the workplace that older workers don't have. The traditional model of top-down education from the more experienced to the novices is not effective when the latter group knows more than the old hands. This situation offers an opportunity for bi-directional mentoring.
Management consultant Barb Artemis suggests that Millennials can mentor Seniors and Boomers on technology while the older generation mentors the younger on institutional knowledge.
As Kristin Hooper Woolsey, founder of Apple Multimedia Lab, succinctly states, "Millennials are skilled in areas of technology and media wheras Boomers and Gen Xers in areas of process, judgement , and intentionality.
10. Work life Balance is more than a platitude to Millennials . They are involved in many activities and have many interests, but working long hours just because it is expected of them is not one of them. Flexible work hours are as important, if not more so, than retirement benefits.

Starting the Dialogue

You can begin to raise awareness about the differences among the generations and their implications to your organization by facilitating a dialogue between and among the generations. during the session, participants can discuss the impact that generational differences have on effectiveness and productivity and identify the personal perceptions in your organization that interfere with cross- generational understanding.

Leveraging the Power of the Four Generations

After conducting the cross -generational dialogue, you can form cross-generational teams to address real issues that are occuring in your organization. Begin this process by having each team clarify the specific problems its members have encountered. Then ask each team to select one of the problems and work together to develop a practical solution.

At the core, generational conflicts are similar to other diversity challenges. Each group is influenced by the adveristy, technology, complexity, and economy experience in its youth. Understanding the perceptions behind the differences goes a long way toward the acceptance of, if not the aggreement with, those differences As a leader who both understands thje advantages and disadvantages of having these diverse generations in the organization- a leader can harness the power of those differences effectively, efficiently , and productivity.


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