Friday, March 13, 2009

Leveraging 4 Generations of Talented Workers

Leveraging 4 Generations of Talented Workers
(or “Is your Workplace Age-Friendly?”)

In the current economy, there’s no doubt that it’s a buyer’s market in the workplace(i.e. employers have their pick of available and abundant talent).The triple convergence of a bad economy, with new technologies for Web-enabled communications, and new work methodologies (telecommuting, job-sharing, E-Collaboration, outsourcing, flex-time)—has created an opportunity for creative talent strategies/programs that can align to benefit both employers and employees.

Recruiters and HR departments charted with retaining, attracting and re-hiring top talent to their workplace would be wise to ask themselves 2 questions:

1) Are we an “age-friendly” employer?

2) Do our policies and practices encourage the best from-and-between workers of all ages in our organization?

For the first time in history, four different generations are at work in the workplace simultaneously. This demographic alignment creates opportunities and challenges for management who should seek to ensure cross-generational alignment, improved understanding and cooperation so that workers “play well with each other”—whether an employee is 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, or beyond…

This topic has been ably explored in the current edition of the SHRM Research Quarterly (Q1-09), and featured in an article in the March 2009 issue of HR Magazine:“The Multigenerational Workforce: Opportunity for Competitive Success”

The chart at the top of this article (from the SHRM Research) describes “Assets to the Workplace” that each of the 4 generations provide. The SHRM report is well worth reading and concludes by noting that in order for organizations to optimize their talent “it is critical to leverage the strengths of each generation.”

Pioneering the value of “Age Friendly Employers” is the leading career website for workers over 50. Through a process of age-friendly employer certification, qualifies employers who’ve shown through their example that they value workers of all ages, and in particular—see that the career and life experience, common worker characteristics offered by “mature” workers are qualifications that make them excellent, loyal and reliable employees.

((Full disclosure:I’m proud to have been part of the leadership team at since 2006))

Other respected workplace watchers who’ve commented on this subject include Brad Taft andmy friend Carleen MacKay, of who co-authored a helpful book (“Boom or Bust!: New Careers in a New America”) and whose“10 Myths and 10 Facts About Mature Workers” is succinct and enlightening.

In my view, a seminal opinion on multigenerational talent comes from Bridget and John Sumser, a Daughter-Father team who gave a great joint presentation at OnRec (Internet recruiting conference) back in September 2006 on “Multigenerational Recruiting”.

The Sumsers set a great example about how different generations can contribute together: Bridget graduated from Mills College in 2006 and works for a non-profit in the Bay Area focused on encouraging elementary school kids to lead healthy lifestyles, be enaged students and active in their communities. John is Founder of IBN:, a leading analyst firm for the Electronic Recruiting Industry and publisher of the Interbiznet Bugler a respected daily online update of recruiting news.

So… what can you do to make the most of employees/colleagues in your own organization (no matter their age)? Here are some thoughts…

Rafter’s Eight Tips to Leverage 4 Generations of Talent in Your Organization:
  1. Seek to combine the best of The Old and of The New
  2. Develop a workplace culture that values experience & rewards enthusiasm/creative thinking
  3. Offer your employees flexible work arrangements. In most cases it doesn’t really matter how long people work or where they work. What’s important is results. Because people ofdifferent ages have different involvements and commitments outside of the office – offer work options such as flex time, part-time, contract work, seasonal work, barters, etc. in orderto get a win-win between employer and employee. Simple accommodations can make your employees more loyal (and you’ll avoid turnover and talent flight).
  4. Always be learning: Spread knowledge, skills and wisdom up and down the age spectrum
  5. Convene interactive in-person sessions (or workshops) to re-educate your workforce to think beyond stereotypes:
    ***All Boomers aren’t technologically illiterate (Jupiter reference)
    ***All GenXers aren’t lazy, selfish people who work at Starbucks.
    ***All GenY/Millennials don’t have multiple piercings and tattoos
  6. Hierarchical organizations are atavisms of the industrial revolution—build a meritocracy in which talent and innovation are recognized, and rewarded.
  7. Teach old dogs new tricks: While Boomers may have grown up with newspapers, records and only 3 TV channels, that doesn’t mean they aren’t eager and willing to learn how to Twitter or friend a 20-something on Facebook.
  8. LinkIn with Senior Talent--- In the days before social networks, networking was more convoluted (conferences, old-boy networks, informational interviews). People who are in their early or middle career—can learn lots from the hard-won experiences of older workers. Similarly, older workers make great mentors with whom you ask questions, seek advice, bounce off ideas. Connect with them online and in-person. Often. Young and old will benefit.

Benjamin Disraeli could well be an example of the poster child for someone who was impactful at a young age and as an elder—and also as someone who navigated tough times such as our current “Great Recession.” After his failed career as a lawyer and financial ruin from the Mining Bubble of 1825--in 1832 at the age of 28, Disraeli embarked on a career in public service that would last 48 years—up until the year before he died.

Given his example and personal experience, Disraeli gets the final word:
“Experience is the child of Thought, and Thought is the child of Action.”

What are YOUR thoughts and suggestions?

No comments:

Post a Comment

I welcome your thoughts and comments. Feel free to e-mail me directly: