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Defining the changing workforce

Corporate culture affects the bottom line, and it starts with understanding the generations in the workplace — how they work and why a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to management no longer applies.

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If there’s one thing tying together all of the generations in today’s workforce it’s that they’ve all either made or will someday make the transition from smirking at adults who just don’t understand to shaking their heads in bewilderment at “Kids these days.”

Though the differences between baby boomers and millennials may seem stark to members of each generation, they’re often still colleagues at the same company or industry and as such need to find ways to effectively work together.

Understanding that corporate culture is more than just a touchy-feely buzzword and that those dynamics between workers actually do affect the bottom line is crucial for business leaders seeking success. Skeptics may think that corporate culture is simply creating a feel-good environment for employees, but there’s more to it than that. Corporate culture is deeply connected to an organization’s productivity, performance, and profitability.

At the inaugural IB Think Tank, May 24 at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, local business experts and top-level professionals will share insightful presentations and lead thought-provoking discussions on the changing corporate culture and how leading strategic change in your company’s culture will increase your bottom line.

Creating a harmonious corporate culture begins with defining the changing workforce, which is the subject of the first presentation of the day from Scott Lesnick, a professional speaker, author, and generational expert.

During his presentation Lesnick will profile the workforce by generation, provide relevant statistics, and describe the unique attributes of each generation. He will debunk generational myths, help employers pinpoint the needs of their workforce, and share proven methods to keep everyone motivated and engaged.

Generationally speaking

Scott Lesnick

We tend to focus on three generations in the workforce today — baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials — because they make up the bulk of the workforce, but Lesnick points out there are actually five generations that are actively working. In addition to the big three, there’s also traditionalists or what are sometimes also referred to as the silent generation or the “greatest generation,” which preceded boomers, as well as Generation Z or the iGeneration.

Lesnick says he tends to focus a bit more on millennials when he discusses generational differences “because of their importance in the workplace, their sheer numbers, and because when folks were bashing them and their work ethic several years ago I disagreed and was happily correct.”

According to Lesnick, it’s easy for business leaders to paint the different generations in the workforce with a broad brush and try to overcome those differences by holding all workers to the same standards and job requirements, but that’s not only impractical, it’s also self-defeating.

“If business leaders and owners don’t make employees, generations, and cultures a priority, their business will suffer. Furthermore, employee retention will decrease. It’s easy to put into a few words: If we treat every employee — all generations — the same and don’t take the time to communicate in a way that is specific to individuals, our messages tend to carry less weight and productivity decreases. Conversely, your employees are more likely to tell others about the company they work at if the culture is supportive, open to ideas, and fun.”

To that end, Lesnick notes communication is, as always, key.

“When I speak or train at a business I always include the importance of open and positive communications between generations,” he explains. The days of ‘one size fits all’ are gone. It is fairly easy to speak with staff independently according to age/generation and without showing preference. This allows for all employees to feel that they matter, make a difference, and are appreciated for the unique skills they bring to the workplace.”

That’s particularly important when addressing the changing ways in which we work. Some baby boomers and Gen Xers might still be more comfortable working at the office every day in their business casual attire, but many millennials and iGens are just as at home at, well, home. Just because an employee wants to work remotely or wear jeans and a T-shirt to the office, doesn’t mean they’re not every bit as productive as other employees. It just means they work differently and are most productive when they feel comfortable and know that it’s their work that matters, not where they do it.

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