Friday, 8 May 2015

That which binds us.

There is much in the news about the different expectations between 'generations'...  Baby boomer, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, Millennial.  Most of the commentaries focus on the differences between these groups, and to be sure, some significant issues are worthy of consideration.  But it strikes me that there are many more things in common that ought to grab our attention.  We spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on the negative and far to little time exploring that which binds us together.  And in my economy I would rather built up the positive and work away at the side issues as time allows.

So then, from an employment perspective, what are the key things upon which all generations can agree, that make for a productive workplace?  I submit to you that the fundamentals are these:

  1.  Opportunity: This encompasses various components.  For some it is the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities by being properly trained and equipped for the task at hand.  For others it is the opportunity for advancement.  And for others yet it is simply the opportunity to be employed. Regardless of how you want to define it, without opportunity there is little likelihood of engagement.  And the lack of engagement detracts from a productive environment. 
  2. Respect: This must be regarded as a right of all employees regardless of position.  Respect, in this context, is not a privilege to be earned.  In this I am speaking about the right to be free of harassment of any kind; free of discrimination; free of intimidation and fear.  The workplace must be, for all, a place of safety and freedom to excel.
  3. Recognition: Every person has the right to expect to be recognized for work well done.  Whether this is done at an annual review, an award ceremony or simply a 'shout out' that peers share, it is reasonable to have superior work acknowledged. Furthermore, each individual has the right to appropriate compensation for the task being performed.  There is no place for discrimination on any basis, period.
  4. Effective Leadership: Any person in any position should expect to have effective management and leadership.  To this end, the company should be involved in a  continuous improvement strategy that relates to the professional development of all individuals in any supervisory, management and/or leadership function.  At the very least, the goals and objectives of the work unit must be communicated to the employee in a manner which inspires the individual to make a meaningful contribution.
I believe that every generation would agree with these principles.  In combination, they are fair, reasonable and appropriate.  When the workplace reflects these principles in action, it does not matter which generation we are considering because all subscribe to a common set of values.  I am not dismissing the obvious differences such as communication techniques, cultural experiences and sensitivities, ambitions etc.  But I would argue that the commonalities of expectations outweigh the differences amongst the groups and that our focus on these commonalities will contribute more to the productive workplace than anything else.

As the leader, how effective have you been in creating an environment that meets the diverse needs of several generations.  Too many have simply thrown their hands in the air and their heads in the sand because they thought that it was too much work to bring these groups together as a team. But that is the essence of leadership...learning how to motivate.

Build on that which binds as these are common human values.  Only then take time to whittle away on the differences for they will become less of an issue if you have tackled the former properly.

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