Valuing Generations in the Workplace By Vicki Harris
Do you recognize and celebrate the differences in generations?
It’s been such a great learning experience for me to have led five different generations in the workplace. There definitely are some differences between the generations. The mere fact that each generation was born in a different spiritual, political, and economic climate, each with its own challenges and (technological) developments, implies that we all look at the workplace through different lenses.
As a generation evolves and enters the workforce, there are inevitable clashes with the established workplace norms. I count it a privilege to get to know and lead each of the generational differences. Ours is also a global ministry which provides a rich quality of culture differences as well as generational differences.
We have learned the value of listening to the Silent Generation to gain the historical views and philosophies. We have also made it possible to dialogue in open forums to gain understanding from the younger generations, how they feel misunderstood by the older generations and what they hope to gain in the future.
Understanding my generation’s strengths and weaknesses was the first step in connecting me with other generations. We show appreciation to our Silent Generation’s need to save resources based on the influence of the Great Depression or the Boomers workaholic, pay-your-dues mentality and how these individuals raised their children – to go to college, do well and be your own boss, so you don’t have to work as hard as we did.
Baby Boomers should not assume that people coming into the profession today know how those who came before us entered the profession, nor how hard they worked to be successful. If it’s important for a new practitioner in your organization to know this path, don’t be afraid to tell your story and give them the opportunity to understand “how things used to be.”
The younger generations bring unique skills and abilities based on the factors that shaped their lives, and we can also learn from those differences. If you are recruiting new graduates, be clear about expectations, but also acknowledge their individuality, independence and desire to contribute immediately to the organization.
The new professionals are motivated by things that are considered less traditional than previous generations. If they are offered flexibility and the opportunity to work on a special project, many are pleased and will excel at the challenge. We give them opportunities to add value, implement efficiencies and allow them into our change process.
We are heavily involved in a strategic succession planning process, and it’s important for us to include the different generations into that dialogue as we work to prepare for what the future of the ministry will be.
We understand that each generation is distinctive and brings a special set of strengths to the workplace that should be recognized, embraced and celebrated. The newest generation of professionals is optimistic, tenacious, and wants to be connected to something greater. They must be discipled, mentored, or coached, by the seasoned generations in order to be successful and to be fully engaged in your overall mission and vision of the organization.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
~ Psalm 145:4
Do you recognize, embrace and celebrate generational differences? How can you better value the generations in your workplace?
Vicki Harris is the Sr. Vice President of Global Human Resources at Our Daily Bread Ministries, a global ministry with 38 offices around the world. Their mission is to make the life changing wisdom of the Bible understandable and accessible to all. Vicki travels around the world, training staff members in business skills, human resource disciplines, diversity equity and inclusion, as well as organizational and leadership development. She is a member of the national Advisory Council for Christian Leadership Alliance as a People Management and Care expert.
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