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Leadership Development Blog

Talkin’ Bout My Generation – Oh no, not again!

Have you ever heard the words of a song and thought that it was written just for you and your generation?

I did and with words like:
People try to put us d-down (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Just because we get around (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin' 'bout my generation)

This was written by the group The Who in ‘60’s, and at the time thought it expressed a sentiment that everyone my age felt. Fortunately those words and sentiments have changed the conversations in the workplace have gone from old to bold.

You see, in some workplaces already there is an age variance of up to 50 years, with grads coming in earlier and older Australians staying at work longer – for all sorts of reasons, and people are not shy about speaking up and out about their needs, wants or desires.

This workforce change comes with a host of challenges as each generation will have something different to contribute, as well as having different needs in terms of management. Gone are the days of having a cookie cutter approach to generational stereotypes – all generations have a new set of expectations and want new experiences.  

First: older Australians in the workforce will need to be encouraged to share their company intelligence, document their knowledge and mentor others at all levels of the organisation. Easy? No.

Next, senior leaders will need to create a culture in which staff can have autonomy and purpose in their work. To varying extents, every generation needs to understand they are part of the bigger picture. Everyone needs to have a reason to connect with others, including those older and younger, and so build their company ‘tribes’. Simple? Not really.

Then, management need to provide the conditions for entrepreneurship and innovation to coexist so that creatives can create and ‘analyticals’ can analyse – irrespective of age, gender, department, job or hierarchy. Can it be done? Only if people want to.

Now, leadership needs to allow young talent to experiment and create jobs and opportunities that don’t currently exist – they need the freedom to tap into the world of possibility. Sounds idealistic? Not if approached properly.

These are just four of the numerous challenges facing leaders in this era of multigenerational management. It won’t always be easy to get people on board with them – particularly across the generations.

This is why it’s critical to make clear the reasons, motivations and opportunities behind pursuing them, creating momentum for the shift needed in organisations and their people. It’s about getting the foundations right for the altered future ahead.

1st Foundation
Allow 4 – 6 months to create the appetite and culture to grow using intergenerational champions to build awareness and opportunity. Follow the old age adage of Make Haste Slowly. While some people will love collaboration and cross generational conversations, others will want to see how it will improve their ‘lot’ before committing. Build, Strengthen, Demonstrate

2nd Foundation
Showcase people’s skills and expertise outside the business. Allow them to shine personally by demonstrating their passion for other areas of interest. This builds reverse mentoring and bigger conversations of shared passions.

3rd Foundation  
Encourage cultural activities for staff of different cultures to share their stories and develop learning circles so people can ask questions and participate in different cultural norms.

While these three foundations don’t seem to have a lot to do with intergenerational management, they have everything to do with tolerance, respect and diversity which is the strong arm of any business. By taking the conversation of Generations off the table and putting a generational neutral approach on it, organisations can change the narrative from “talkin’ bout my generation’ to ‘doin’ something bout it”.

Posted by Ricky Nowak on 22nd September, 2015 |

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