We are currently at a historical crossroads where there's a shift in demographics in the workplace as people are living longer, active lifestyles. This also means that workplaces are made up of a rich mix of employees spanning generations both starting their careers and approaching retirement.
Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials -- together, they represent a vast pool of talent and skill, the most crucial resource that organizations have.
But it's time to drop the narrative that continues to linger about one generation versus another battling over jobs, being on different planets or coming from opposing perspectives. It's time to accept the transformations necessary to modify our connections, attitudes, and work environments to create a dynamic and positive workplace, and maximize the success of your business. It's time for a shift in mindset to enable more effective collaboration.
Recognizing the unique composition of the modern workplace
Multi-generational workplaces offer a unique opportunity to blend different experiences and skills in an organization and the challenges of managing characteristics that distinguish each generation. This type of workplace is now more common and apparent, creating professional environments that are rich with experience and maturity as well as youthful fervor.
Companies that employ workers in wide ranges of age have the advantage of creating a dynamic, multi-generational workforce with a diverse range of skill sets that is beneficial to the company.
What they bring to the table
Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers have been in the workforce for many years and are a great resource for younger employees. Both groups also make for great mentors and can be helpful in training new staff on company policies, procedures and history. Gen-Xers can also teach their peers a lot about appreciating independence in the workplace and valuing work-life balance.
In Canada, Millennials have become the largest generation in the workforce with approximately six million Canadians of that generation employed in 2015. What sets this generation apart is that they grew up in the digital world - from smartphones to social media - where technology is the norm and instant access to information is an expectation. Millennials are the first generation to enter the workplace with a better grasp of digital tools than more senior workers, and they offer a wealth of information that colleagues can tap into.
Values and rewards
Each generation is shaped by shared experiences that help to develop their perspective and world views. The key is to be able to effectively address and take advantage of the differences in values and expectations of each generation.
Let's face it, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work when dealing with different groups, and may inhibit collaboration.
By understanding what motivates certain generational groups or individuals, you can customize your response, build more effective teams, and adjust recognition and reward programs that will resonate with each group. However, be wary about generational stereotypes.
One misconception is that all Millennials want to be praised with recognition while other older generations prefer a more discreet thank-you. This is not always the case and as much as possible it's important to recognize employees as individuals. This is something both SMBs and larger organizations can consider implementing on a scale that works for them.
Throughout my career, I've had the opportunity to work on teams comprised of people from varying generations. And in recent years, as workplaces have seen their Millennials populations grow, much has been written that focuses on the stereotypes of these younger members of the workforce. But both individuals and companies alike need to remember that employees don't fall neatly into one category or share traits solely based on their birth year.
Understanding and appreciating the factors that shape not only each generation, but the individuals who fall within them, can help with everything from recruiting new employees to motivating existing ones. It also goes a long way toward helping recognize how best to utilize their strengths, enable their success, and engage them in the kind of efforts that bring out the best in everyone, no matter their age or generation.
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If the drudgery of office life is getting you down, you could do worse than get back to nature. According to research carried out by City & Guilds revealed gardeners and florists as the UK's happiest workers. Although the results suggest this has less to do with flowers and foliage and more to do with freedom and free reign. As many as 80% said it was because they were able to manage their own workload and have autonomy over their daily tasks.
Google may have been voted America's 'Best Place To Work' four years running but for a while there was a serious happiness deficit among its female employees. When its People Operations team (that's HR to you and me) investigated further they found that women who had recently given birth were leaving at twice Google's average departure rate. In response Google boosted its industry-standard maternity leave plan from 12 weeks paid time off (just seven outside California) to five months of full pay and full benefits. After the new plan was implemented the attrition rate for new mothers halved, dropping down to the average rate for the rest of the firm.
You know that feeling when you're so engrossed in what you're doing you're completely oblivous to what's going on around you? Well, according to psychologists, this state is the epitome of true work happiness. According the the Hungarian psychology professor, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and doctoral student at Harvard, Matt Killingsworth, the quality of our mental focus in the moment is the key to happiness while mind-wandering is its nemesis. Csikszentmihalyi found that we are happiest when we enter the 'flow state' - an ecstatic experience of total concentration that requires our complete attention due to its difficulty.
A programme called TinyPulse allows bosses to gather employee feedback via weekly anonymous surveys and provides a channel through which workers can raise issues and communicate with their bosses.
New research published by the Employee Ownership Association and sponsored by the John Lewis Partnership shows that staff working in employee owned companies (organisations in which all staff have company shares) are happier, healthier and more secure than workers without a stake in their company.
Craig A Jackson, Professor of Occupational Health Psychology at Birmingham City University investigates the idea of whether clinical hypnosis could be used in the workplace to improve health and stress of employees. He proffers some fairly weighty arguments in favour of the notion but would you really feel comfortable allowing your boss to do a Deren Brown on you?
The Navy nuclear-powered Navy submarine, the USS Santa Fe had a reputation of having the worst performance, the lowest morale and the lowest retention of all the Navy’s nuclear submarines. There were often delays for launches, and repairs could be repeated multiple times. When a new captain was brought in, one of the first changes he made was to insist that crew members didn't simply follow orders without thinking for themselves. If they thought something was wrong, they were to speak up and not simply following instructions blindly. As a result of his changes, the crew was able to pass an inspection by senior officers no problem.
Used by some companies to assist with recruitment, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. "Whatever the circumstances of your life, the understanding of type can make your perceptions clearer, your judgements sounder, and your life closer to your heart's desire," said founder, Isabel Briggs Myers.
Jess Lee, the 30-year-old CEO of style e-commerce site, Polyvore, believes simplicity is at the heart of work happiness. In January she implemented a company-wide "simplification month". "To get the company down to its simplest possible state, I asked everyone to make a list of all the work they do, identify what was most impactful, and then cut, optimize or simplify everything else," she says. "In that one month, the product engineering team deleted some of the product features that were less used, we changed some of the ad programs, we simplified some of the communication processes inside the company, we refactored a lot of code and we streamlined our user support processes. "I think we got the company down to a simpler state and people had a clearer mind because their to-do lists were cleaner and simpler."
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