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Multigenerational Solutions for What Keeps CEOs Up at Night

The top “keeps me up at night” concern in the latest CEO surveys is attraction and retention of talent, with the previous issue leader, engagement, sliding to a close second. In fact, they are closely related and require similar principles and approaches, whether with regard to employees or external stakeholders such as clients/customers, referral sources, alumni, donors, or alliance partners.

The savvy talent-focused CEO is investing in learning motivations, and meeting the expectations, of people of each generation, some of which are perhaps surprisingly similar, and others differing. Based on my work for over 25 years helping organizations solve their intergenerational challenges, as a marketing/business development consultant, as well as my original research with multigenerational teams, I offer here some insights to the most effective strategies for securing and retaining your most valuable assets–your people.

Challenge Your Assumptions

What people of all generations want most at work is to feel valued, respected, and relevant. The last is typically felt by Baby Boomers and Millennials who too often are subject to ageism, either stereotyped as too old or too young and inexperienced, when there is no validity to that assumption.

To overcome this potential bias, it’s vital to have a high touch-personalization approach to your company’s talent. Get to know your people for who they are as individuals and what they can contribute. Make them feel they have a personal, respectful relationship with you and their managers.

Orient, Educate and Develop Talent

Professional development is an attraction to ambitious talent and a benefit to employers. More money and time is being devoted to professional development by savvy organizations now that they have shifted the mindset from a recession mentality to that of a growing economy. Professional development is an effective competitive weapon in down economic times as well. And it should start with orientation for all new recruits, even senior management. Most companies have not enhanced their orientation programs to include discussions of mutual expectations, culture factors, and networking conversations with multigenerational colleagues. These elements get the working relationship off to a solid start and need to be repeated periodically in the first six months for stickiness, maximum benefit, and loyalty. Of course, industry technical knowledge, technological, and human performance (so-called “soft”) skills training goes without saying as a requirement.

Purposeful and Meaningful Work

Millennials and Gen Zers typically express their desire for meaningful work and employers who have a clearly stated purpose beyond simply money-making as their reason for being. Leaders and managers need to be clear in conveying how each individual contributes to the value provided to clients and customers, even if everyday tasks seem mundane before they gain experience to tackle more challenging work. Expressly convey the importance of each individuals position so employees don’t struggle to figure that out and leave because they feel undervalued and lacking respect.

Cross-Generational Glue

Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish in neglecting and discarding older workers because they may have higher compensation than young, less experienced workers. They may be not only more productive, but also have essential knowledge and relationships externally you don’t want to lose. Calculate the true value of those relationships and wisdom. Cross-generational conversation and knowledge transfer are essential for sustainable businesses. They are what an engineer on a multigenerational team termed the “cement” that binds the company. Think meritocracy and contribution rather than hierarchy if you want to retain the value of the best workers across all parts of the age spectrum.

Eliminate Ageism and Value Cross-Generational Conversation

Ageism stereotypes are more often wrong than accurate, are frequently applied to members of both older and younger generations, and are detrimental to achieving goals for hiring and retaining the most effective talent. In several studies a highly productive workforce diverse in age (and other demographic factors) resulted from sharing perspectives, knowledge and skills, and accumulated connections. Benefit from mutual (two-way) mentoring, informal training and a foundation of experienced workers while adding new talent with their market perspectives, contacts and skills.

The dot-com boom busted largely because most young entrepreneurs at that time hired peers, and they neglected predecessor generation managers who understood and knew more about management and how to be profitable. It was a harsh lesson leading to many failed companies and a recession as the world entered the 21st century. Cross-generational communication and collaboration increases the likelihood of sustainable success.

Let All Voices Be Heard

When Google and others conducted and analyzed multiple studies to discover what the recipe is for the most effective teams, they found many researchers’ theories led nowhere. The common denominator turned out to be two key factors. One was that teammates felt a sense of “psychological safety.” They did not feel threatened by failing when they took calculated risks to innovate. And second, every team member was not only permitted to speak up but was required to add their voice to discussions and decisions.

The insights discussed in this article, if conscientiously implemented, will lay the foundation for a more productive and loyal workforce, improved client/customer experiences provided by that workforce, and better nights of sleep xfor CEOs.


Written by: Phyllis Weiss Haserot, multi-generational workplace expert, president and founder at Practice Development Counsel, is author of “You Can’t Google it! The Compelling Case for Cross-Generational Conversation at Work.”

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Featured Columnists at the CEOWORLD Magazine is a team of experts led by Camilla O'Donnell, James Reed, Amarendra Bhushan, and Amanda Millar. The CEOWORLD Magazine is the worlds leading business and technology magazine for CEOs (chief executives) and top-level management professionals.
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