Giselle Kovary, president of n-gen People Performance, regaled the Strategic Capability Network with a rapid-fire, highly informative and entertaining presentation on getting, keeping and growing a multigenerational workforce.
As Kovary’s delivery unfolded, I was struck by how much it looked like really good, fully baked talent management — regardless of age. She demonstrated that all employees seek the same things. Universally, we all want to work with, for and among people who value and respect us. We want to contribute to something larger than ourselves, and work for organizations and people who warrant our trust. To achieve that, employers need to be transparent, responsive and partnering with employees, all of which looks a lot like great talent management for anyone.
The big insight is that age cohorts are just another diversity that intersects with other diversities. As such, to successfully integrate the cohorts, organizations need to use best diversity practices — communicating expectations, and modelling and rewarding the right behaviour. HR has a role as a champion and advisor, but the heavy lifting must be done by the managers of people who will need advice on identifying and adjusting how they relate to this staff diversity, without compromising other organizational values or goals.
I wonder how much of the incessant hand-wringing over the millennials is really the death throes of monolithic, one-size-fits-all people policies. Once upon a time, people policies were a means to finding efficiencies within an assumed homogenous workforce — the 20th century mindset of man as machine part. But the centrifugal forces of the early 21st century — the collapse of the social contract, loss of faith in institutions and technology — have driven employee relations with their organizations away from the universal toward the individual.
The bleeding edge of that transformation remains “Jill Manager,” a team leader who must work with one more potential force of divisiveness. So be it. Managers of people can now lean less on policy. They are more often called upon to use their judgment and discretion, make decisions (even the hard ones) and go to action with the mantra “fair but not equal.”
Managerial effort should now bend more towards getting the most out of individuals, rather than finding the lowest common denominator of the team. The assignment and monitoring of work, assessing effectiveness and coaching need to be individually calibrated. Importantly, in this diverse world, managers need to be extraordinarily self-aware, and consciously check their biases at the door. Honestly, though, for all of this, was it not ever thus?
Michael Clark is director of business development at Forrest & Company. Forrest is an organizational transformation firm with 30 years’ experience in developing the organizational and leadership capacity in organizations.
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