The Ties That Bind
Stop focusing on what separates multi-generational workforces; focus on what binds them together.
Any Bruce Springsteen fan like me that sees a title which reads, "The Ties That Bind," immediately hears in their head the familiar tune of the song with the same name which kicks of The River album. (“The ties that bi~~~~~~~~nd.”) My love for this song and for Bruce Springsteen notwithstanding, it’s this very concept which I fear many companies are completely missing the boat on when it comes to their multi-generational workforces.
It's widely understood that today's workforces contain three, sometimes four, generations of workers. They often have very different styles. Very different work habits. Very different priorities. Very different lots of things. And for this reason, companies are turning their internal practices into pretzels in order to engage and get the best out of everyone. Of course, I do believe there’s inherent benefit in helping each individual maximize their potential based on their specific needs, and certainly I believe if we all understand each other better, we’re better off as a team.
Unfortunately, I also believe companies are spending far too much time talking about and focusing on what separates us, rather than the things that bind us together. At the very least, in terms of corporate messaging and rallying teams of people to accomplish great things, I'd rather focus on those characteristics which are more universal human needs, as opposed to generation preferences. Here are five examples:
- Everyone Values Recognition
Wanting to be recognized for our great work spans all generations. Millennials might be more apt to share this recognition than others, but Boomers and X'rs appreciate hearing it just as much.
- Everyone Wants to Be Associated With A Winner
Pride is something we all feel and sharing that pride together can be very motivational. Ask the fan base of any sports team that wins a championship. Age becomes irrelevant. Winning is universal.
- Everyone Craves Respect
Everyone. Again: Human, not generational.
- Everyone Wants to Learn
We never really stop learning. The expression "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" is garbage. You can. And the sense of accomplishment from learning something new is the same no matter how old you are.
- Nobody Likes to Feel Left Out
In the past week, I've heard different stories from my 9-year-old daughter, my wife, and my mother, the common theme of which was drama created because someone was left out of something. This feeling doesn’t dissipate with age.
I suppose in the end my advice is this: If you want to get the most out of your company's multi-generational workforce, spend more time talking about the areas that bind them together and less on the things that make them different. And if you need inspiration, you can check out The Boss in this clip from Saturday Night Live so you can get that melody stuck in your head just like it’s now stuck in mine. (“bi~~~~~~~~nd.”)
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