Dealing with the different Generations

It seems as if we hear the words, ‘millennial’s’, ‘Baby-Boomer’, or ‘Gen-X-Y-Z’ every day now. These simple words, and the concepts which they embody, seem to be on everyone’s lips these days. Yesterday morning, I heard a morning radio DJ complaining about how his Generation Z child was driving him crazy, while another DJ complained about their ‘Boomer’ Boss. In this article, we explain how to retain your employees while working with the generational differences in your workforce.

It’s funny how we love our labels, and yet hate being categorized by others isn’t it?

While doing research for this article, I ran into so many articles and so much information about the various generations and how to avoid them, hire them, or fire them, that even an avid reader such as myself was temporarily overloaded.

While I was reading all of those articles and posts, one question kept coming to my mind: Where are the articles on just dealing with…people?

It seems that more and more, we are looking at a division in employees and departments that seem to mirror these trends in segregated marketing.

We call this division in departments ‘silos’.

According to the Business Dictionary, a silo mentality is defined as:

‘A mind-set present in some companies when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce the efficiency of the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.’
Read more:

We know that silos exist, indeed, have always existed within workforces, just as we know that the more isolated any specific department, the more reduction in ROI for those departments and the organization as a whole. After a while, those silo’d individuals and departments begin to simply protect themselves and their work, (CYOA), making collaborative efforts more difficult and eventually, if not addressed, leading to what’s known as a Legacy Issue.

All too many of us understand exactly what that term means. For those of you still not certain, first of all, congratulations, you’ve probably never heard the battle-cry of this sort of legacy environment: “We can’t change because we’ve always done it this way.”

This is just the opposite of organizations such as Edward Jones, Wegmans Food Markets, The Boston Consulting Group, and of course Google, that are adjusting their own companies, and departments in order to alter their employees working conditions and viewpoints, this according to Fortune’s 100’s Best Companies to Work for 2017. If you’re looking to learn how to retain your employees longer, it’s worth a read.

These companies all have several things in common, but for the sake of this article; let’s look at one of the most important.

How to retain your employees through engagement

The difference between nearly every company that is named on Fortune’s list and one of those legacy organizations mentioned is how they choose to interact with their employees, and arguably just as important, how those employees, regardless of position or title, interact with each other.

In fact, according to a recent article in USA TODAY, (Millennials’ workplace pushback Chris Pummer, Published 12:12 p.m. ET Jan. 21, 2014 | Updated 4:10 p.m. ET Jan. 21, 2014),

A new study says a majority of Gen-Y workers prefer a workplace setting over telecommuting.

Chris goes on to example that many of the people in today’s workforce, no matter their generation, are looking for ways to overcome the vacuum of working remotely.

But what about the employees who are already coming in to work every day yet, because of Legacy Silo’s still feel as if they are working alone?

How does your leadership team communicate with each other and your employees?

This brings us to the crux of this section: if you are in one of those silo’s, and are desperately looking for ways to get your team to collaborate and innovate, and maybe even increase the footprint of your department, it all boils down to change.

Yes. That dreaded word which seems to send some organizations running, screaming for the hills, but which becomes a call to action to those admired companies we’ve already mentioned. (You know, those companies known for retaining their employees.)

It always reminds me of a company that I trained for over a decade ago. A large organization that everyone has heard of, who’s leadership continually told those of us in middle-management that we were going to take our newest competition by storm, we would decimate them by sheer virtue of ‘our’ the strength of will and determination. We had been told this while standing in the middle of a desert in Nevada for a corporate retreat. The CEO was riding a horse through the crowd at the time. While many of our group cheered and chanted, several overheard conversations told a different story.

Many of the employees had great ideas about what needed to happen with the company next but felt that they had no one who would listen, or cared about their opinion. The worse part of a silo? When your employees come in every day and still feel as if they are alone.

That organization no longer exists. The employees are now either innovating or feeling siloed in their new work-homes now, and the leadership for that particular enterprise? Well…they must be somewhere else right?

How to Retain Your Great Employees

Right now, let’s talk about how to retain your great employees. Keep in mind that I omitted any generational identifiers for that last portion for one simple reason: The silo mentality goes beyond generations, age, and even industries. Beyond anything that we will discuss next, here is the most important gist: If you want to retain your employees, no matter their generation, there are two simple rules.

  1. Interview and hire well
  2. Make certain that the mission and vision of your company is one that is agreed upon by its champions — the employees — no matter their level. If your mission and vision don’t match the actual day to day reality of your organization, you will have a problem retaining your employees.

After all, silo’s in the board room have been around for over 30 years according to Brent Gleeson, and Megan Rozo, co-authors of: The Silo Mentality: How to Break Down the Barriers. (Entrepreneurs, Oct. 2, 2013)

In that article, you’ll find one of the best suggestions for how to handle to retain your employees:

Motivate and Incentivize

Kudos to execs and management teams who are able to successfully establish a unified, common goal and understand how the various parts of a whole intertwine. Half of the battle is won. The final steps in eliminating silos cover execution and implementation. Motivation can vary across teams, and most importantly across individuals. What really defines a successful manager is one who is able to identify what key components motivate each of their employees and how to communicate this effectively to a wide-range of audiences. Once the common goal has been identified, each member of the management team must incentivize their employees accordingly.

If your common goal is to revamp the reputation of your company, then one of your objectives might be to improve the quality of your product. If the objective is to improve the quality of the product then your employee incentives should be built to maximize this desired result. For example, someone in product development might receive an incentive for reducing bugs within deadline; while the customer service representative might receive an incentive on increasing customer satisfaction. Incentives will go a long way with motivating employees; however, it is not all that is needed. Managers need to remember that motivation encompasses a wide variety of tactics including common interests, individual investment in growth, shared voice, and positive words of encouragement. All of the tactics described within Motivation are designed to avoid the “it’s not my job” attitude and encourage input, teamwork, and most importantly – productivity.

Collaborate and Create

The famous quote by Francis Bacon “knowledge is power” has a very pivotal role in modern organizations. There are a few key factors in creating a thriving and productive team; knowledge, collaboration, creativity, and confidence. Without these four basic factors, any team is destined to fail. To encourage your teams to exhibit all 4 of these traits it is recommended that management allows and fosters cross-departmental interaction.  The exchange of knowledge and the collaboration that will inevitably take place between teams is absolutely priceless. To maximize collaboration, knowledge, creativity, and confidence it is suggested that management works to reduce unnecessary long and frequent meetings, builds out accessible and small meeting rooms, implement a cross-departmental training/education system, and encourages constructive feedback from outside departments.

Breaking down the silos is not an easy task for any organization; however, the avoidance of these issues will be more detrimental to the employees and ultimately the overall health of the organization. The five steps laid out in this article are designed to help facilitate a unified vision and establish realistic steps to providing team members with a clear purpose and means to accomplishing the ultimate common goal. There is nothing more powerful in any organization than having all employees rowing fiercely in the same direction.

In the light of all of those articles, which of course began as a way to improve the sales and marketing to specific groups, I found myself back at one of the book cases in my office, holding Dale Carnegies’ “How to Win Friends &Influence People”. (POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New Your, NY 10020)

The original book was published in 1936, you know before there was such a thing as a ‘Baby-Boomer’.

Now, I’m sure that there are people out there who are thinking, “An actual book? Come on!” Don’t worry, you can find it online as well. The point here is to simply get a copy. I have read it so many times over the years that I can’t even keep count, and once again, it didn’t let me down, but more about that later.

But don’t just stop at reading the old classic. If you want to really retain your employees, it requires more than just changing a few lines in your human resources manual. It requires breaking out of the silo mentality as an organization…not just a department.