Honest HR

Everything to Learn from the Past, Present and Future of a Multigenerational Workplace (Pt. 2 of 2)

Episode Summary

In this episode of Honest HR, host Wendy Fong continues her discussion with HR consulting/talent management specialists Karen DeLise, Adrianna Gabriel and Allison Levine from CCI Consulting to discuss everything to learn from the past, present and future of a multigenerational workplace experience.

Episode Notes

In this episode of Honest HR, host Wendy Fong continues her discussion with HR consulting/talent management specialists Karen DeLise, Adrianna Gabriel and Allison Levine from CCI Consulting to discuss everything to learn from the past, present and future of a multigenerational workplace experience.

Earn 1.00 SHRM PDC for listening to both parts 1 and 2 of this two (2) part miniseries; relevant details provided in-episode.

This episode of Honest HR is sponsored by Mystery.

Episode transcript

Episode Transcription

Speaker 1: This episode of Honest HR is sponsored by Mystery. Mystery creates meaningful connections at work by curating virtual events for teams based on their shared interests.

With hundreds of quality vetted events, Mystery has something for everyone. For a special BOGO offer, head to trymystery.com/shrm to book your first event and get the second for free.

Gloria Sinclair...: Welcome to Honest HR, the podcast for all of us HR professionals, people managers, and team leads, intent on growing and developing our companies for the better.

Amber Clayton: We bring you honest, forward thinking conversations and relatable stories from the workplace that challenge the way it's always been done, because after all, you have to push back to move forward.

Wendy Fong: Honest HR is a podcast from SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management and by listening, you're helping create better workplaces and a better world. I'm Wendy Fong.

Amber Clayton: I'm Amber Clayton.

Gloria Sinclair...: And I am Gloria Sinclair Miller.

Wendy Fong: Now, let's get honest!

Amber Clayton: This episode is part two of our two-part miniseries discussing the many facets, features and bugs in a multi-generational workplace. Before we get back into our conversation with Allison, Adrianna, Karen from CCI Consulting, I wanted to share a story and my experience with dealing with a multi-generational workplace.

My first job out of college, after college was in sales and I was 21, brand new into the professional workforce and I became the techie, inside techie, the go to person in the office to help people of all generations on any just minor tech issues, came naturally to me as a millennial. And so in turn, I got to really get to know and meet my colleagues as I became known as the informal IT person and build those workplace relationships, I wouldn't have otherwise.

I remember one of my colleagues was in her fifties and I would help her with her computer from time to time, and we just got to get to know each other and she gave me a lot of really great life advice, especially with 401(k) in particular.

I remember she told me, "Don't forget to invest in your 401(k) and take advantage of that match." And sharing her wisdom that she had learned because she had wished when she was my age that someone had told her the same exact advice that she was giving me. And so she became one of my mentors at work.

And so it's really beneficial to lean in and network with people of all backgrounds and generations in the workplaces as long as you're patient and open to learn. I think a lot of the issues arise from miscommunication and not having that empathy to understand the other person's perspective.

Karen DeLise: Also, want to give an additional comment around this idea of how different events have shaped us. I mean, we can't forget about COVID. I mean, I would love to forget about COVID. Don't get me wrong. We all would. But when I think about how it is impacted the Gen Z in particular, I mean they have kind of come of age this last two and a half years in a time of the greatest isolation that we have seen. Not just a country, but the whole world, this kind of collective trauma that we've gone through.

And there are implications for the workforce and that too, in terms of how we onboard these newer in career folks to our company. So last company I worked for, COVID hit right when it started. And so I would never really was in the building, so to speak, but there's implications for that and I do think we need to pay extra attention to how we onboard and nurture along those early career talents.

Wendy Fong: And we have yet to see the long term ramifications of COVID as well. And I know Allison, you mentioned mental health is certainly a priority right now, and I know SHRM hasn't started bringing that to light and it's initiatives is a top priority last year, out of COVID and to continue on after that.

Allison Levine: Absolutely. And I think that mental health is only going to be more destigmatized. Going forward, I think it already is becoming more destigmatized than it once was. In previous generations, this might be a generalization, but mental health wasn't talked about as much it is now, and people are much more open with how they are handling it, how it affects them in the workplace, and also how it affects them in their personal lives.

And I think what companies can do is of course, offer a good benefits package that helps the employee feel financially supported, but also having a support system for their employees. And what that mean, what does that mean and a lot of Gen Zers are looking towards their bosses to meet with them every day. Almost every day on a very frequent, consistent basis.

I mean, as Karen just mentioned, COVID rattled the entire world. There's an entire start of a generation of people who only started their careers completely remote, have never stepped foot in a corporate office, maybe for an internship, but not for their professional career. So knowing that they are supported, that there is consistency, and knowing that there is going to be some sort of upwards trajectory for their career at that company or just in their career as a whole.

Wendy Fong: You mentioned revisiting the whole onboarding process, the importance of that, whether they're remote or in person or hybrid or even if they started off remote. And then what does that transition look like if they go back into the office? What does that onboarding process look like?

I did want to ask a question too. You mentioned the purpose economy. So why do we see that shift in the difference in the purpose economy? Why didn't we see that with traditionalists or baby boomers or Gen X?

Karen DeLise: Well, we had the industrial revolution, if you will, technology revolution and purpose. I think really started coming about due to more awareness, partially because we have more media, we have more visibility into what companies are doing, we see the detrimental effects of polluting the environment, spills, different things like that.

So there's a lot more visibility to the damage that can be done if those ethics that we spoke about earlier are not being maintained. And additionally, I think newer generations are coming into their own in terms of understanding, as Allison said, politics matter and who we elect, what causes we support. Those things make a difference.

So in terms of purpose, if you can align what's important to you, whether it's diversity, clean energy, financial, generosity and philanthropy, whatever it might be, that is what's really going to drive the relationship between employees and their company and will be an increasing part of EVP. Going forward, employer value proposition.

Wendy Fong: So say at HR, brings us to their organization to revisit their purpose statement or revisit how they recruit new employees and they find resistance with their leadership in changing this direction. What advice would you give them?

Karen DeLise: Show me the money. I mean, at the end of the day, we do have to make money as a business. You've got to get your CFO on board. And there is a lot of data out there that companies who have a strong presence in terms of their ESG, statements and actions attract a higher level of investor capital.

There's data out there that show that. And there are many groups that will not invest in a company who is not transparent. That's another thing that newer generations are demanding, is a higher level of transparency in these matters.

So I think that's where it shows up, that it's going to affect the bottom line in terms of attracting investors, employees, and all of the things that you need to be successful as a business.

Wendy Fong: So on the flip side, so say organization change their proposition, their mission statement, their job position as an employee, how can an organization makes sure that they sound genuine? If an organization starts a TikTok account, for example, that it doesn't seem fake. It's coming from a place of authenticity.

Allison Levine: There's only so much that a company can do by getting on TikTok and being super progressive on TikTok, on social media showing, "Hey, come work for us. Look at this amazing job description that I posted. You get all of these great benefits, you get so much PTO, you get mental health days in addition to your PTO, it's really great. You get snack bars..." You get this, you get that. That's all really, really great. And the perks of course, are important.

It's, they're good incentives, but at the end of the day, the company actually has to do the work in order to make sure that their new mission, and that their new progressive movement is actually being put into play. So supporting your employees, actually supporting your employees, not just saying you're going to and making sure that each employee feels that they are going to be successful and making sure that you're investing the time in training all of your employees.

Especially the new generation that had just been through the pandemic and that, I mean, all generations have, but the new generation that started their careers in the pandemic I mean, and giving them mentorship opportunities, providing them with opportunities that actually make them feel they're valued members of your company, instead of just superficially saying, "You get four months of PTO."

Karen DeLise: Yeah, it can't be pandering. It's got to be not just flash, but actual substance behind it.

Allison Levine: Right.

Adrianna Gabrie...: Actually care, I think is important. If you are creating a TikTok account because you want to reach a certain population, it's okay to reach that population, if you truly care about that population. And why do you care about that population and how are you going about it in a way that demonstrates that you care what they're saying and their approach to the world and what your product can do to support them or so forth.

So without that level of caring, then it can come off as disingenuous. It can come off as appropriation of some sorts, where... People are hypersensitive these days to being sold, whether that's being sold on their product or being sold on a job opportunity or an organization and what they represent. And people aren't going to go for it.

There's a difference between taking a first look and having some of that longevity that companies are looking for from a brand loyalty standpoint or employee loyalty standpoint. It really does come down to, do you actually care?

Allison Levine: And millennials and Gen Z, they are not afraid to pick up and leave and find a new job if their current company isn't providing them what they need in terms of caring.

Wendy Fong: And Adrianna, mentioned this before, but with the rise of globalization, they're able to get employees from all over the world. There's increased competition in the workplace, in the job market as well.

So what can companies do to keep up with that competition, to make sure that revenue, they're still generating revenue and it comes from a genuine place? Whether they open up a TikTok account or throw a foosball table in the break room. Are they just doing it to add onto their benefits or is it coming from a genuine place that's tied in with their overall strategy and mission?

Adrianna Gabrie...: I think it goes back to what Karen mentioned in terms of transparency. Workers are adults, and as an adult you can understand something when it's clearly explained to you. So if an organization is going to be transparent and say, "We're in the early phases of our diversity and inclusion approach." Or, "We are experiencing globalization right now, and you won't necessarily have job security in the long term." People can make a decision around what they're getting into if they're given all of the packs up front and have an opportunity to assess and decide on their own.

If it comes off as disingenuous and organizations aren't being transparent, then employees might feel as though they have been set up or misled and are going to be more willing to go to another organization where they can get those needs met.

Wendy Fong: And we've seen that shift too in the past few years with the Great Recession or revaluation or whatever you want to call it, where the ball is seems to have shifted more in the employees court rather than employer.

Adrianna Gabrie...: Correct. Yes.

Karen DeLise: Absolutely.

Adrianna Gabrie...: It's like the housing market. It's like the housing market where sometimes it's a buyer's market and sometimes it's a seller's market, same thing. Sometimes it's an employer's market and sometimes it's an employee's market. And right now employees are voting with their feet.

Karen DeLise: Yes, they are. And I have to say that in my career, this is the strongest employee market I have ever seen. I mean, there are 10,000 plus jobs open right now, significantly more jobs open than there are workers.

So you really need to, as an employer, as a leader, make sure that your value proposition, your purpose, what you're attracting people with, spans across all of these generations because you can't look at just one or you're not going to be able to get your needs met. And we're stronger with diversity of thought and experience and all the other elements. But this absolutely is an employee market.

And despite some signs recently that things are softening, the unemployment rate is still low and people are still jumping ship and as Adrianna said, voting with their feet if they're not getting what they need.

Wendy Fong: Why is that? Why is this the strongest employee market that you've seen?

Karen DeLise: Well, it's a few things. One, coming out of the pandemic. A lot of companies were sort of in retrenchment mode during the pandemic and cutting back on their output, different things like that. Then as we've been trying to emerge from this thing for the past year or more, we've been plagued with supply chain issues. And I'm sure that if Adrianna were still in supply chain, that wouldn't be an issue. But we're being plagued with all of these issues that require workers to fix them.

Everything from restaurants, to construction, to high tech. There's so many different factors that have created this unprecedented demand coming off a time when companies were retrenching and we just have more opportunity than we had before.

So whereas before, you might feel trapped, if you will. Maybe you don't love your company, maybe their purpose is slightly misaligned with your values, your goals and your priorities. But if there's no other choices out there or limited choices, employees are willing to put up with a lot, especially if you have bills to pay, which most of us do.

If the market is as it is right now, where there's lots of choices and you're not happy, you're willing to take a risk and go somewhere else. So I think that's driving the situation we're in now. Who knows how long it will last? As Adrianna said, the pendulum swings, but this is the farthest, it's swung, in my work experience.

Allison Levine: I also think that the pandemic caused an incredible amount of burnout. And when employees started to recognize what that meant, they started to realize what were their preferences.

They're working from home all day. Maybe you don't leave your house all day. I know, I'm guilty of that. But just being able to know what it means to work for the right employer and be willing to go above and beyond for the right person, so that you aren't becoming burnt out.

Adrianna Gabrie...: I also don't want to underestimate the value of social media in employees voting with their feet. I think everywhere you look and turn on social media, it will make you believe that there's a ton of opportunity out there, or I can be an entrepreneur too. All I need to do is to start a TikTok or a YouTube channel, and I'm going to be able to survive on my own.

And so while some of that might be true, I think some people might be misled in terms of how much work that takes, and are kind of burnt out by the traditional working structure and taking those leaps of faith, some successful and some not so much.

Wendy Fong: And the rise of the side hustle, there has been an increase of people pursuing their passion as a side hustle and knowing, I think healthy boundaries is important too, and it's tied to mental health.

You have to have healthy boundaries of recognizing your own limits and to what extent can you push yourself. And I mean, for those of us that were shelter in place and not essential workers and were at home, we may not have been aware of our limits when we were used to going to the break room or going take a lunch break, and even just going to the office.

That commute is a mental health break to meditate or listen to music, and that was completely erased. And well, I personally, I filled it with just working more on the computer instead of taking those breaks.

Allison Levine: I think that those who were essential workers definitely felt an incredible amount of burnout as well. I think that it was in a very different way than maybe those who weren't essential, felt it. And I think that is also contributing to employees coming to terms with what having boundaries means.

Karen DeLise: Yeah, that's a really good point, Allison. If you think about our healthcare workers, and I have several people in my family who are nurses and things like that, and the relentless pressures that the pandemic has put upon them, that's a huge crisis in nursing right now. And in hospitals, things like that where they can't get staffing because people are so burned out that they're walking away.

So not just healthcare, but in manufacturing and other areas where our workers had to be there. Their job could not be done from their bedroom or from their office at home. Good point, Allison.

Wendy Fong: So regardless of what generation you're in, how can HR then and or people managers, and leaders help mitigate some of that burnout?

Allison Levine: I think taking into account the individual person. I mean, my needs are different from Adrianna's and Karen's and vice versa. I think that it's important for companies to really invest in the individual person and understand that, do they need to work until 9:00 PM, every night? And what is that going to do to their mental health?

Maybe Adrianna can work until 9:00 PM but maybe somebody else can't. Not to put you on the spot, Adrianna. I don't know if you work until 9:00 PM. But I think that understanding that each person is different and not holding every person in the company or on a team to the same standard, and being able to flex and accommodate to each person.

Wendy Fong: That's a great point. I did want to shift gears a little bit because we haven't touched on this. Let's discuss more on the potential biases when dealing with the different dynamics of the different generations. And I know ageism too is can be prevalent in the workplace.

Karen DeLise: Absolutely. I have seen this throughout my career, as I had mentioned, we were talking earlier. Early on when I was joining the workforce, the Gen Xers were looked at as the me generation and very self-centered, and not really wanting to give the whole heart and soul to the company. But from a day-to-day basis, I think depending on where you work, it's more or less prevalent.

And you had asked the question, what can managers or HR do to help mitigate negative stereotypes across generations? And a simple thing is talk about it. Let's have a discussion. Let's do maybe some role playing, let's do some storytelling so we can understand each other better and where we're coming from.

Recognizing that everyone, as Allison was saying, is an individual. I'm not defined by, I'm a millennial, I'm a Gen Z. I'm a person that's multidimensional. I have different needs, different family considerations, and those things change over time. So what's important to Allison today, a few years from now, may not be her top priority. So being flexible as different needs come up for employees is another way to keep the dialogue going and mitigate those biases.

One in particular that has always made me laugh is the negative bias toward either baby boomers, not as much Gen Xers, that they don't understand technology. And I just have to laugh because for myself and others that I know, we've been dealing with the changes in technology and embracing it for decades. So there's some negative stereotypes.

And then you have the positive ones, like hardworking and team player. All of that stuff. So I think just getting to know people as individuals and not as labels is the key to success.

Wendy Fong: And it's also important for organizations to offer those resources to employees and to people managers too, whether it's the training, workshops...

Karen DeLise: And opportunities to partner with each other in actual projects and getting the work done, that's where it is really impactful and fun.

Wendy Fong: And I know Allison mentioned mentoring too. I've seen mentoring and there's reverse mentoring too. Where a younger employee can help mentor an older employee as well. It could go both ways and be beneficial.

Adrianna Gabrie...: Yeah. I want to underscore something that you said, Wendy, in terms of the training and development for managers or people leaders, because at the end of the day, no one was to be told what to do. People don't want a boss. They didn't want a boss in 1960, they didn't want bosses in 2022.

People don't want to be bossed around, but people do want a coach, right? They want someone who can lead them and guide them, but not everyone knows how to be a coaching leader. Not everyone understands how to not tell someone how to do something, but how to provide the necessary instructions. Step away and create room for mistakes and allow and encourage someone to develop their thinking capabilities, so that they too can become a leader at some point.

Letting go of some of that scarcity mindset can be difficult for people. As you go higher and higher up the chain, "There's only room for me, and so I don't want to tell my employees everything." Can get in the way with some leaders and managers as well. So it's so important to make sure that development happens within organizations, so that you can create that continuous learning environment.

And so that managers feel comfortable and strong enough to ask individuals what it is that they're looking for and that they feel well equipped to respond with a "No." Or, "Were not able to provide that at this time." If they do ask the question and get something, a response that they're not expecting, right? People don't ask because they don't always feel equipped to respond effectively. So that training and development is so crucial for leaders to navigate some of those difficult conversations.

Wendy Fong: That's a lifelong process. I mean people are, I mean, we're complex creatures, so there's never a perfect science to having those conversations as a manager, as a leader. So constantly being on top of learning and trying and practicing and having empathy is kind of the running theme here.

All right. So to recap on how to deal with the different generations in the workplace. So provide a purposeful corporate vision or mission with the emphasis on increasing social responsibility, focusing on adaptability of whether it's policies, benefits, total rewards packages for recruiting and retention, also recognizing individuality in offering those policies and benefits in total rewards. Offering training resources, those coaching and development opportunities, and then supporting employees in their wellness and helping build their resilience.

SHRM also offers some resources as well. I know Karen, you mentioned you're a SHRM member, we have a landing page called Express Requests and it focuses on benefits of a multi-generational workforce. So if you're trying to build a business case to some of your senior leadership, there's resources and research and data there.

We also have a resources and tools page on how to combat ageism in the workplace. And the SHRM Foundation also offer, has an initiative on leveraging the power of age diversity in the workforce as well. So definitely check out those resources on the SHRM and SHRM Foundation page.

So in closing, I wanted to kind of go around the circle here. What is just one final takeaway that you want to leave our listeners with? Whether it's tips on how to navigate the multi-generations in the workplace, or anything you want to leave our listeners with. Adrianna, let's start with you.

Adrianna Gabrie...: Sure. So when considering working with different generations in the workplace, I would encourage leaders to ask, really ask and listen for what it is that people are going to respond with.

Everyone is in a different stage of lives no matter what their generation is and need to be supported in different ways. And if you take the time to ask and to really seek to understand, then you can create either a workspace environment or a go-to-market strategy or a offer and offering that is going to be beneficial for the group you're trying to reach. If you don't first understand, then you won't have the right solution.

Karen DeLise: Brilliantly spoken. Adrianna, detailed everything she said. And also just to recognize that we need to meet people where they are, regardless of generation. As Adrianna pointed out, people go through different seasons in their life and ensuring that we approach it with honesty, respect, cultivate trust through transparency in our relations with our employees. Those things are really critical.

And I would say the bottom line is that we're all in this together. Regardless of your age, your gender, your race, everything else, we're all in this together. And so where we can all unite in a common goal to achieve something meaningful in our work, we're better together.

Allison Levine: And I guess to highlight both what Karen, Adrianna said, help me help you. I think this spans across every generation. If you're a new to a role or new to an industry or whatever the situation may be, you're going to need that extra help to get acclimated.

And I would say that the biggest takeaway would be for managers, just understand where people are and what their knowledge level is. Be patient and be understanding that they're not going to be the same person who might have been in previous role or who is on your team and works on a different project.

Each person is different, has different needs, and helping them help you is going to go very far, is going to increase productivity. And it's also going to allow the employee to feel more comfortable, to come to their manager with any questions.

Wendy Fong: Well said. All great advice. Great takeaways. Thank you all so much for being here, and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules. And we thank you listeners for listening to us as well, joining for this hour to learn about multi-generations in the workplace and this conversation that we've had with Allison, Adrianna, Karen, with our group here.

So this episode qualifies for one PDC, and the activity ID is 22-3A4JR. If you haven't already, please subscribe so you'll never miss an episode. And be sure to rate and review the show wherever you listen a podcast. Who knows, we might even read your review on a future episode.

You can find me on Twitter @SHRMwendy, or on LinkedIn. I'm sure you could find any of our guests today on LinkedIn as well, if you'd like to connect with them. And if you want to learn more about the Honest HR Podcast about myself or the other host, or to get additional resources on what was discussed in today's episode, go to shrm.org/podcast. So can't wait for you to join us all again soon. So take care of yourselves, of each other and peace out.

Speaker 1: This episode of Honest HR is sponsored by Mystery. Companies use Mystery to make meaningful connections for employees at work. By breaking down silos and engaging employees, Mystery boosts morale and builds connections across teams by curating virtual events for teams, based on employees shared interests.

Leveraging, data and insights from your team, Mystery curates events that drive an average attendance of 87% compared to the industry average of 50%. With hundreds of quality vetted events, Mystery has something for everyone. For a limited time, get two events for the price of one. Visit trymystery.com/shrm.