I co-delivered a three-day HR Leadership Excellence workshop in Bangkok this year, with attendees from nine different countries. One of the topics on our agenda was managing different generations in the workforce.
Depending how you feel about the topic, this can seem very dry or inspire a heated debate. One of my challenges in delivering this section was the usual post-lunch slump you get at these kind of events, so I wanted to ensure everyone was active and involved. The results were full engagement and a very visible understanding of differences in generations.
Want to know more? Then read on…
I distributed a questionnaire to all the delegates. Nothing onerous, just ten simple questions, each with four possible answers. In the style of those old questionnaires you used to get in magazines, each answer had a score, add them up at the end and you discover your best generational fit.
To get the delegates involved and moving before the post-lunch lethargy kicked in, I asked them all to stand in different parts of the room, depending on their generation based on their year of birth. So everyone dutifully made their way around the room and stood with similar aged people. As expected, the Millennial group was largest and nobody stood in the Traditionalist group area.
Then I asked them to move to the parts of the room depending on their generational fit as resulted from the questionnaire.
There was a lot of movement! Two-thirds of the Millennial group moved to other areas, including the Traditionalist area. Some Generation-X people moved to the Millennial area, and so on.
At the end, Generation X had become the largest group. Millennials had vastly depleted, even with the addition of other birth-generations. Traditionalists had come into existence, despite having no people of that age-group present.
What had happened? Well, the questions everyone had answered were about such things as their preferred way of communicating, types of reward, preferred leadership styles, attitudes towards work and money, views on loyalty and feedback – you get the picture. The very things that can be used as a way of showing differences and divisions between generations in the workplace had become a way of showing them that those differences already exist – regardless of age!
By showing people how this looks in reality, it opened up the discussion about how they already work together, how they deal with those differences, and took the emphasis off making one generation seem to stand apart from another.
Finding things in common with one another is a great way of kick-starting and improving communication and engagement.
This exercise is simple and takes about fifteen minutes. Take it, use it – it’s free! It would be great to hear about your results: Julie@metamize.co.uk