I recently spoke at the largest gathering of Human Resource professionals in the world. There were over 15,000 people from 80+ countries. Speakers from Marcus Buckingham and Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K – from Duke) to current HR practitioners and consultants and authors like me were there. It’s a gathering of minds and one of my favorite conferences of the year.
Each year I leave with excitement and enthusiasm for those leading the people side of the business. This year, I noticed, however, how much time and energy is still spent talking about generations in the workplace. I want to grab a megaphone and jump in each session and scream…
“It’s not about the generations – it’s about the people.”
The generation mix is a real deal and this year (officially) there are more millennials in the workforce than any other generation. Multiple generations working together create issues and challenges – this is for sure. Managing the generation mix is indeed hard and presents unique challenges to managers and employees.
In my opinion this topic is tired, worn out, and should be put to bed. I looked at my files and the first keynote I gave on the topic of generations was in 1999. The message since then has not changed. Here is the entire message in a nutshell…
Younger people enter the workforce. They look, act and behave differently than their elder counterparts. Their needs are different, and they want them met. They want more from their personal life and don’t want to end up like their parents and grandparents who give too much to their work for little reward. Older generations get frustrated because they had to pay their dues and wait patiently for things that younger workers seem to get right away. We all act like there is some great generational divide but in the end, the punchline is that we all want the same thing. There you go, everything you need to know about generations.
Now, can we get to the real heart of the matter? It’s not about Millenials, Generation X or Baby Boomers. It’s about people. That’s it. I believe that many leaders (human resource professionals in particular) like to hide behind labels and excuses rather than addressing the real problem. It’s much easier to talk about issues like diversity and engagement or to complain about generational gaps than it is to drive a culture that makes each of these things irrelevant.
Would you be brave and would you be bold? Would you be willing to get to the root of this issue and meet people where they want to be met? I hope that soon we will be able to change the conversation from simple labels and over simplified buzz words and start talking about things that truly make a difference. Stop pointing out our differences and start valuing the gifts and strengths in everyone.
Next week I will provide 10 practical ways to make generations in the workplace irrelevant.
Lead well, Lead often and LEAD STRONG!