Guest Opinion: How many "nations" are ruling your company?
Five generations in the workplace mean five times the challenge—and also five times the opportunity
Friday, May 16, 2014 11:45 AM
When the United States was in its infancy, Thomas Jefferson described each generation within our emerging country as "its own nation."
Today, we are living and working longer, and that means an unprecedented five "nations"— five generations —working side-by-side in the workplace and in the community.
So it's no wonder today's business leaders face extraordinary management challenges. It's like being president of five countries and leading constituents with five sets of opinions, values, ideals and motivators.
More senior leaders don't know why the "young kids" won't do things their way and may discount them simply because of youth and inexperience.
Younger people wonder why the "old folks" are always standing in their way of innovation or struggle to gain some credibility.
This is particularly troubling to CEOs trying to manage through generational conflict and misinformation. In fact, in my travels, CEOs confess to me that this is one of the most significant business issues facing them and their respective management teams today.
The solution isn't about trying to box out one generational group over another. And it isn't even about throwing one's hands up in resignation and defeat.
Rather, the key strategy for business leaders is to understand the skills and perspectives of each demographic — and then incorporate them strategically and thoughtfully — into daily practice to bring people together even when different views and values are at play.
It's about defining a common goal — a convincing goal — in language that is tailored to resonate with employees of all generations.
And, it's about developing strategies that motivate employees and build a cohesive team — not in spite of the different ages, attitudes and values that are part of the mix, but because of it.
For today's business leader to be successful, he or she must create — and cultivate — an environment that is built on a shared value system that minimizes the differences and maximizes the similarities.
Don't wait until your company or community organization is struggling to integrate multiple generations for a common good. And don't wait until these generational "nations" start a culture war in your organization.
Bud Hockenberg is an attorney and the founder of CEO Independent Advisor.
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