Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Expert Brainstorm with Diane Spiegel

This month Diane Spiegel explains her philosophy about the important role generational differences play in training and development.

Why do you feel it is so important for leaders to create an age-friendly work environment?
The short answer is that we need each other in so many ways! Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, the most mature in the workforce, have knowledge, patience, and the wisdom that often comes with years of experience. The youngest workers, Gen Y/Millennials, have a new perspective that is tuned into efficiencies and how to do things faster and easier. As digital natives, they can tech-multi-task and obtain information in seconds. The Gen Xers have brought the concept of work-life balance that many are not willing to negotiate. Gen Xers are also in their prime child bearing and rearing years and do not want to miss out on their kids' events, like so many of their parents did as they were very busy working. So, we all need what the others bring and those organizations that provide opportunities for generational and knowledge sharing in an atmosphere of support and trust will successfully emerge as the impact of the multi-generations is felt in companies all over the world.
With so many generations working side by side in today’s workplace, what are some of the most notable generational differences between Traditionalists (1900-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Gen Xers (1965-1980), and Gen Y/Millennials (1981-1999)?
The most notable is the concept of work ethic. Traditionalists are noted for their commitment to getting the work done with no whining! They were thankful to have jobs and felt that all work had honor and dignity when the job was done well. Gen Y/Millennials have taken a lot of criticism about work ethic as it appears to some that they don’t have it. They do have it, but their first line of thought is how can they efficiently and quickly get the work done using all of their great social media and Internet connections. They look for ways to streamline. Gen Xers were the first to come up with the term “work-life balance” and the GenY/Millennials have followed in their path. Both of these generations have the ability and skills to multi-task and they work and play in a woven format. Traditionalists, and to some extent Baby Boomers, viewed work as something that occurred from 8-5 and work was work and leisure time was just that. Our work has shown that Gen Y/Millennials as well as Gen Xers toggle back and forth between work and non-work activities. This shifting represents a new paradigm that the two dimensions (work and leisure) can co-exist if you have the tools and skills to integrate your day.

Based on your philosophy of first understanding generational differences and then using this understanding to engage employees in productive conversations, what are the first steps a management team can take to begin this process of understanding?
I believe it’s very important to first understand why each generation is shaped as it is and how these common experiences have impacted attributes and characteristics. Generational differences in the workplace are not a new topic. Karl Mannheim, considered to be the grandfather of generational research, defined a generation as a group of individuals of similar ages whose members have experiences and noteworthy events within a set period of time. In 1950, Karl Mannheim’s sociological theory said that when a group of people shares a common birth period they are cemented by significant events and social changes during that period. The events become a part of an individual’s identity and influence that person’s views on the world but also impact the attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions of all persons born in that time period to create a collective generational perspective.
When time is invested in understanding the differences, and people are provided the opportunity to discuss, share, and collaborate on ways in which the best of what each one brings to the workplace can be leveraged, everyone wins.

GenY/Millennials are sometimes labeled as having an entitlement mindset. While there are some obvious drawbacks about an entitlement attitude, are there potentially some positive qualities that accompany this mindset? 
Gen Y/Millennials do not see themselves as entitled, they just know what they know! Because of this, they often bring a confidence to their work that has taken other generations many years to embrace. Their mostly Baby Boomer parents have viewed the relationship with their offspring in a very different manner. Traditionalists raised their Boomer kids with the idea that “children are seen and not heard." Boomers shifted that mindset and put “Baby on Board” stickers on their cars indicating how precious and important was their cargo. Gen Y/Millennials have grown up believing they can because their parents, teachers, coaches, and counselors reflected the idea that you can be who you want to be, that what you have to say matters, and that you are special and important.
In your current engagement of designing a custom leadership program for an EB client, what has been the contributing factor(s) to the success of this project? 
From the beginning we have had the buy-in from the top of the organization, as they are clear that leadership development is key to future success. As a traditional organization, with a lot of tribal knowledge invested in their Baby Boomer population, they are aware of the potential brain drain that can occur, and as they invest in all levels of leadership, they are preparing the organization for a successful succession.
The department director has allowed the design team to be creative, out-of-the-box, and very innovative! No idea is a bad idea has been our motto. The results have been excellent! Participants have responded positively to a more experiential learning approach, where they are doing and interacting more of the time than in the traditional lecture approach. We are also using a variety of methods for engagement such as the virtual team. This team comes with an array of employees who represent some of the challenges that managers are faced with and they discuss in a safe environment how they would handle difficult conversations and what coaching and mentoring might look and sound like as they practice. To keep things exciting, some of these virtual team members come to life as the Learning & OD team takes on role play and becomes these employees, allowing participants to experience what a conversation might be like with a live actor.
What is your life’s motto? 
Listen when others speak. Seems simple, right? We do this all the time, or do we? Do we really HEAR what others say? Are we really paying attention or thinking ahead about our own list of things to do? All of us want to be heard and to know that what we say matters. In our super busy world we are often emotionally dismissed and left with that “whatever” feeling; it’s all transactional and makes no difference.
I try, though it can be tough, to listen when others talk. What are they saying? What are they not saying? What do they really have in mind? Do they just want to share, or do they need input, or most importantly, validation? Listen in. REALLY listen. You’ll be amazed at what you learn!
Any words of wisdom that our readers can put into practice today?
"We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” Anais Nin
It’s challenging to see things as others see them, but when we try to stand in the other people's shoes and look out from their vantage point, we gain an understanding of their perspective. It’s so easy to become wrapped up in our own ways and thoughts that we don’t allow enough mental space to see what others see.
Escoe Bliss is fortunate to count Diane Spiegel among our team of expert consultants! Be on the look out later this year as her new book will be available for purchase! The Gen Y Handbook: Applying Relationship Leadership to Engage Millennials will provide readers with a solid prospective of the Gen Y mindset and show how to successfully engage this generation of employees to produce and achieve. In the meantime, Ms. Spiegel will continue providing custom training and development solutions. For more information on Sage Leadership Tools and multi-generational leadership development for your business contact Escoe Bliss at 949.336.6444. 

No comments:

Post a Comment