Leading in a Multigenerational Organization

This talk by Maureen Sullivan was truly invigorating. I chose to attend this session because my own department boasts members of probably every generation discussed here:
Traditionalists (born before 1946),
Boomers (born 1964-1964),
Gen X (born 1965-1980, and
Millenials born 1980-2000. DISCLOSURE: I was born in 1981. 🙂

The presentation initially tackled some of the more obvious issues that arise when discussing generational differences: what are some stereotypical characteristics of each generation in the workplace, how do we define what a “generation” of people is (for the purposes of this talk it was defined as a group of people born within a span of about 20 years whose display similar values, preferences and behaviors), and Ms. Sullivan was careful to note that obviously every person within a generation can deviate from the stereotype for one reason or another.

We soon broke into groups of three to discuss some basic generational characteristics of the four generations described above, and after reconvening the larger group, Ms. Sullivan asked for some characteristics of each generation that could be considered assets in the library environment. The rest of the session offered the following concepts:

For the 1st time in U.S. history, there are 4 different generations working in together in the same environment

Capitalize on different characteristics of each generation to achieve “generational synergy.”

The stage of adult development an individual is in affects intergenerational interaction.

Important to remember distinction between bias and stereotypes. Stereotypes can sometimes help us to communicate more effectively, but must take care on how we act on these stereotypes.

It is important to recognize that every employee is a self-directing adult.

We should strive to create a workplace that allows for each individual to grow and development.

Mentoring goes both ways, between more experienced employee and less experienced employee.

Organizations should move from being rigid and over-structured to open and fluid, with staff work not bound by job descriptions.

Must get to know and recognize each individual’s work style, strengths, and expectations.

Focus on creating an inspiring, engaging vision for the future.

Give attention to how we build commitment of individuals and groups to achieve that vision while focusing on individual strengths.

Meet needs of each person to some extent (not necessarily all needs).

Build shared commitments to vision!