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4 Ways to Help Different Generations Share Wisdom at Work

“The world is more malleable than you think and it’s waiting for you to hammer it into shape…That’s what this degree of yours is — a blunt instrument. So, go forth and build something with it.” — Bono, singer for U2, 2004 University of Pennsylvania commencement

Right now, commencement speeches are being given, quoted, lauded and judged. Not every speaker will knock it out of the park, but all have the same goal: to impart some wisdom that will hopefully inspire the next generation.

It’s great to receive sage advice on this banner day signaling “adulthood.” But when else do we hear wise adages, aphorisms, and axioms? Shouldn’t we make more room for such guidance and reflection during our working years?

Ask yourself: When was the last time someone seriously “dropped some knowledge” on you? Something that really grabbed your attention? Your imagination? Made you laugh, shed a tear, both? Something that possibly inspired you to, as Steve Jobs said in his famous Stanford speech, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” Hopefully it wasn’t as far back as your college graduation. But, chances are, it wasn’t at work.

After graduation, people still seek this kind of wisdom and inspiration. Millions of Americans watch inspirational talks online, go to conferences, and hire coaches – but they often don’t look in their own workplaces. Yet, wisdom is not in short supply here. There are now five generations working alongside each other – an unprecedented opportunity to learn from such a diverse range of experiences. But there’s not always an obvious path for people to share with and learn from each other. Especially when generations are siloed, both older and younger workers keep their wisdom buried.

We need a new means of intergenerational wisdom sharing. Speeches are one way to do this, but I think companies can create many other avenues to encourage and facilitate the exchange of wisdom. Here are a few steps you can take to galvanize gravitas on a daily basis at work:

Offer mid-morning wisdom talks. Each day, give one employee a platform to share their wisdom, learning, or point of view. I was fortunate enough to address a recent Zappos All-Hands employee meeting and was impressed with the line-level staff who stood up to tell their stories of success and failure. Why not offer a similar platform weekly or monthly as a mid-morning shot of inspiration? Or, what about instituting a daily team huddle where each person shares what they’re focused on for the day? Or maybe try ending a regular team meeting with one member sharing their newest-found wisdom from the past few weeks?

Recognize your “wisdom workers.” You may know the sage souls who offer quiet, invisible productivity to your organization. But what about identifying and publicly recognizing them so they can share that wisdom with a larger audience in the company? On your employee satisfaction surveys, you might ask, “Who in the company – outside of your direct boss or a team member – do you look to for helpful advice?” or “Who in the company is a role model for wisdom?” Once you’ve identified these internal counselors, you can start determining how to leverage their wisdom. For example, why not allow your wisdom workers to spend 20% of their time acting as internal coaches in the company? (As Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy at Airbnb, I allocated one-fifth of my time to employees from all over the organization as a confidante and coach.) Or you can model what Procter and Gamble developed with their “Masters” program, an honor bestowed on those in the global company with decades of internal wisdom who can serve as wise beacons for those newer to the organization.

Develop a mutual mentoring program. Building bridges between generations is most effective when it’s baked into the company’s values, culture, and processes. I’ve found that mutual mentoring – where I’m learning from a Millennial about one topic and they’re learning from me on a different one – accelerates wisdom sharing across an organization. One of the ways companies can foster this kind of relationship is by connecting those just joining the company with “new hire buddies” – employees likely to be from a different generation – tasked with showing them the ropes. Liz Wiseman in her book Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work writes that Intel has created an intranet to provide mentoring matchmaking options across state lines and national boundaries based upon the shared interests of the participants.

Create an Employee Resource Group (ERG) focused on wisdom. Airbnb has seen great connections and support flourish in its Wisdom@Airbnb groups, which are open to any employees over the age of 40 and anyone committed to the goal of an age-friendly workplace. Approximately 90% of Fortune 500 companies have ERGs, but only a tiny fraction have an affinity group expressly serving their older demographic. Bringing your “Modern Elders” together can help you and them leverage their institutional wisdom and insight.

“We have, if we’re lucky, about 30,000 days to play the game of life…trust me…it’s wisdom that will put all the inevitable failures and rejections and disappointments and heartbreaks into perspective.”Arianna Huffington, Vassar College 2015

Last year, I was honored to be invited to give the commencement address to more than 10,000 people at the University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School for Business. In preparation, I studied NPR’s exhaustive review of commencement speeches dating back to 1774. I tried to incorporate the common themes I noticed – humility, humor, and hugely idealistic ideas for transforming the planet – when I delivered my address. I also offered three questions for undergrads, graduate students, and their families to ponder:

Students: What world-class skills can I offer? Developing these could lead you to your calling.

Leaders: How can I support those I lead to do the best work of their lives here at this company? Helping your employees identify what resources they need to flourish lets them take responsibility for creating organizational and personal solutions.

Everyone: How can I turn fear into curiosity? Adopting a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset lets you see more options, which can help reduce stress and anxiety and boost your resilience.

Get inspired by graduation season. Think about how your company can start institutionalizing wisdom and leveraging it, along with creativity and innovation, for greater inspiration and success.


Chip Conley is a hospitality CEO veteran, the Strategic Advisor for Hospitality and Leadership at Airbnb, and a New York Times bestselling author whose new book, Wisdom@Work: The Making of a Modern Elder, arrives September 18th,.


HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW: https://hbr.org/2018/05/4-ways-to-help-different-generations-share-wisdom-at-work?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_campaign=dailyalert_not_activesubs&referral=00563&deliveryName=DM5940

 

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There Are Differences In What the Generations Want From Work

I was doing some research for a client and came across this report from Monster:  Monster Multi-Generational Survey, published in 2016. The underlying survey was concluded in January 2016 and surveyed more than 2,000 across the Boomer, X, Y and Z generations.

I’m actually not a big fan of reports that show how differently each generation at work needs to be treated. I’m more in the camp of how to bring people together rather than solidify their differences. However, this is a very useful report. It’s not long, but it’s full of interesting tidbits. In its descriptions of each of the four generations active in the workplace today, these are the top motivators by generation.

The generational differences are fascinating. And it’s our job to figure out how to retain these differently motivated employees while we bring them together into effective work groups. A daunting challenge to be sure.

Of particular interest, I think, are the data that describe the differences in technology demands and expectations between the generations. This is a fascinating glimpse into how each generation relates with technology at work and which technology tools they view as most important:

This is a terrific overview of the workplace preferences of each generation. And while we don’t want to build walls between the generations, we certainly do want to leverage technology in a way that will enable higher levels of productivity as well as more complete and effective communication.

I’m always looking for ways to break down walls between employees and create stronger more compelling workplace cultures. Using information like this to more effectively communicate and to build strong relationships make this report interesting.

You can download the report here. It’s a pretty quick read – well worth the investment of your time.

China Gorman is a successful global business executive in the competitive Human Capital Management (HCM) sector. She is a sought-after consultant, speaker and writer bringing the CEO perspective to the challenges of building cultures of humanity for top performance and innovation, and strengthening the business impact of Human Resources.

 

https://www.tlnt.com/there-are-differences-in-what-the-generations-want-from-work/

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Our Assumptions About Old and Young Workers Are Wrong

It is almost second nature to create stereotypes of people based on age. If someone is in their twenties then they must be technologically adept, obsessed with keeping fit, prepared to change jobs frequently whilst obviously searching for meaningful work. Those in their sixties and seventies must be less interested in work and are probably exhausted and anticipating the leisure time offered by a long retirement.

These are seductive and easy to understand behavioral labels. But are these assumptions either real or helpful? Might they obscure even more important similarities?

We believe this is a crucial question to ask right now as working lives – shaped by technological innovations and extended by growing longevity – are undergoing profound transformations. To understand how people are responding to this transformation in their working lives, we developed a survey completed by more than 10,000 people from across the world aged 24 to 80.

We found far fewer differences between the age groups than we might have imagined. In fact, many of the traits and desires commonly attributed to younger people are shared by the whole workforce. Why might this be the case?

One reason is that we are simply living longer. This means we’re also working longer, and working differently.

For our recent book The 100 Year Life we calculated how long people will work. Whilst we cannot be precise, it is clear that in order to finance retirement many people currently in their fifties will work into their seventies; whilst those in their twenties could well be working into their eighties. That means that inevitably people of very different ages are increasingly working together.

This long working life, coupled with profound technological changes, dismantles the traditional three-stage life of full-time education, full-time work, and full-time retirement. In its place is coming – for all employees regardless of their age – a multi-stage life that blends education, exploration, and learning, as well as corporate jobs, freelance gigs, and time spent out of the workforce. Inevitably the variety of these stages and their possible sequencing will result in both greater variety within age cohorts, whilst also providing opportunities for different ages to engage in similar activities. In other words, work activities will become increasingly “age agnostic” and these age stereotypes will look increasingly outdated.

Right now people of every age are becoming increasingly aware of the transformation of their working life. They are reinvesting in their skills, looking after their health and thinking about options, transitions and career switches that weren’t a reality for previous generations. Viewed in this light, there is less discontinuity between different ages – and instead a shared, and growing interest in the tools to cope with a longer working life in an age of profound technological disruption.

Our survey highlighted these commonalities. While there may be some selection bias — the 10,000 people who completed our survey online are already interested in the topic of life and work changes — their experiences and attitudes highlight how misleading simple age related stereotypes can be. Consider six fairly common age-based assumptions: the young invest most in new skills, they are most positive and excited about their work, and they work hardest to keep fit; the old are more exhausted, keen to slow down, and less likely to explore. The people in our study overturned these stereotypes.

  1. It is not just the young who are investing in new skills. We asked people whether they felt their skills and knowledge had plateaued, and whether they had recently made an investment in their skills. After the age of 30 many people are concerned about plateauing skills. Indeed there is no difference between those in their 30s, 40s or 60s – almost two-thirds worried that their skills and knowledge were not keeping up with changing work demands. What is fascinating is how many people were countering this by actively investing in their skills. Certainly a higher proportion of those aged 18-30 (91%) and 31-45 (72%) felt they were investing in new skills but after the age of 45 almost 60% of all ages said they were actively investing. In other words, the majority of people keep maintaining skills and this does not significantly decline with age.
  1. It is not just the young who are positive and excited by their work. This is a crucial attitude as working lives elongate. If indeed being positive and excited about work declines sharply with age, then long working lives will become a terrible burden for the older. What was striking was that whatever their age, those feeling positive about their work was a constant at just over 50%. Just as striking is the proportion of people of all ages who don’t feel positive about their work.
  1. Older people are working harder to keep fit. We know that vitality is central to a long productive life and it is easy to imagine that it’s only the young who really care about their fitness. Yet we discovered that it is the older who are working hardest to try to keep fit. About half of those under 45 actively try to keep fit, rising continuously across the ages with a peak of 71% for those aged over 70.
  1. Older people are not more exhausted. One of the reasons corporations often prefer the young to the old is the assumption that with age comes exhaustion at work and therefore a lowering of productivity. We found no evidence of this age related exhaustion. In fact, more people under the age of 45 (43%) said they were exhausted than those over 45 (35%) – the least exhausted are those over 60.
  1. Older people don’t want to slow down. The stereotype is that as people age they want to slow down and are looking forward to retiring. We found this not to be the case. More than half of those aged 46 to 60 want to slow down, whilst only 39% of the people over 60 and less than 20% of the people over 70 say they want to slow down.
  1. Exploring is not just for the young. When you think about “gap years” you probably think about 20-year-olds taking time out after full-time education. But why assume that it is only the young who want to take time out to explore and learn more about themselves and their world? Crucially, we found no significant age difference in people’s excitement about exploring their options.

The six assumptions we have explored here are probably just aspects of a much bigger tapestry of assumptions about the young and old that are spurious, wrong, even damaging. We use the word damaging with care. When corporations believe that older workers invest less in their knowledge, are less excited by their work and exploring their world, and are on a path to physical decline and exhaustion, they make the wrong decisions about whom to select, promote and develop, and whom to retire.

There are undoubtedly some differences across the age groups that are important in the workplace. However, the over-simplicity of age and generational labels decreases our understanding of individuality; it masks the commonality of the task we are all facing as we strive to achieve a productive and enriching longer working career; and is in deep conflict with the imperative to develop age-agnostic working practices.

As every one of us is faced with living and working longer it is absolutely crucial that, whatever our age, we face up to and question unfounded assumptions and stereotypes about ourselves and about others. Only then can we create workplaces where people are accepted for themselves.

HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW: https://hbr.org/2016/11/our-assumptions-about-old-and-young-workers-are-wrong?referral=00202&cm_mmc=email-_-newsletter-_-weekly_hotlist-_-hotlist_date&utm_source=newsletter_weekly_hotlist&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=hotlist_date&spMailingID=15946528&spUserID=OTA1Njk1ODMwMAS2&spJobID=903958289&spReportId=OTAzOTU4Mjg5S0


Lynda Gratton is Professor of Management Practice at the London Business School where she teaches an elective on the Future of Work and directs an executive program on Human Resource Strategy. Lynda is a fellow of the World Economic Forum, is ranked by Business Thinkers in the top 15 in the world, and was named the best teacher at London Business School in 2015. Her most recent book is The 100 Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, co-authored with Andrew Scott.


Andrew Scott is Professor of Economics at London Business School and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford University and the Centre for Economic Policy Research. He has served as an advisor on macroeconomics to a range of governments and central banks and was Non-Executive Director on the UK’s Financial Services Authority. He is the co-author, with Linda Scott, of The 100-Year Life: Living and working in an age of longevity.


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