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Embracing Generational Differences

Help shrink the vast expanse of interstellar space between seasoned workers and new hires by celebrating individual strengths

 

Fifteen years ago, the thought of asking a new hire how they prefer to receive communications in the on boarding process may have seemed a bit far-fetched. Workers were expected to receive communications in whatever form they were sent, and it was probably a sticky note or a chat as colleagues passed your desk.

But with CIOs in the midmarket space ranking communication and collaboration tools among their most sought out technologies for 2018, it’s undeniable that we have a new set of communication challenges.

Lea Deesing

“I have staff members who are completely freaked out when you call them, but texting is fine,” laughed Lea Deesing, Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Riverside in California. She oversees an IT staff of 60 individuals supporting dozens of locations and has recently rolled out Kaizen Career Roadmap Program that earned her organization the Most Innovative IT Workforce award last year.

She’s among a select group of leaders working to minimize friction between staffers and encouraging a celebration of individual differences. They’re also preparing for what Deesing called a ‘silver tsunami’ of Baby Boomers preparing to retire in the next five years.

While this challenge in not necessarily a new one, it’s the first time increased life expectancy and greater financial obligations have placed a potential 50-60 year gap between white collar workers side by side on the same projects. That’s more than a lifetime of experience – both developmental and professional – further complicated by the fact that many people resist being viewed through a generational lens.

For global workforces like those at USAA, Janet Stone has the additional hurdle of managing cultural differences. She recalled working with a brilliant project team in India that was unaccustomed to vocalizing their opinions. Stone said she’s also managed female staffers whom she was challenged to integrate into IT teams.

“I walk around every day and get to know my team. What motivates one may not work for another,” Stone said, adding that as often as possible, she works to facilitate team building activities outside the office that may not necessarily be work sponsored. “That is what drives our team. Be a good example, and ask them what their interests are.”

Image Courtesy Mary Patry, ITeffectivity

Deesing said she surveys her staff annually to rate her performance as a manager. After gathering a list of recommendations on how she and her managers can help their staff improve customer service and help them do their job better, they work over the course of the following year to implement the requested changes. Though all requests may not be fully implemented, Deesing said it’s important to communicate back to the team why and close the communication loop.

Cielo Talent EVP Seb O’Connell told Forbes last year that in order to overcome negative stereotyping in the workplace, organizations need to help managers overcome unconscious bias

“Younger workers’ enthusiasm for trying new things could be used to encourage a culture of innovation, while older workers can leverage their experience and broad perspective to help millennials understand some of the costs and risks associated with their ideas.”


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