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.
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.
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.
Lesnick implores business leaders to find the balance between sound business guidelines and unnecessarily strict rules.
“Of course, there are rules and guidelines that apply to all workers. However, the businesses that are more agile or flexible are becoming more popular among all generations.
“We take time and spend money to hire and train employees,” Lesnick continues. “It stands that trusting our staff do get their work completed must enter the equation, as well. How they do it is becoming less important, and all generations are interested in clocking in remotely if their job allows. It is not necessarily generationally specific, although millennials do place a lot of value on life outside of work.”
So, how can business leaders keep members of the different generations motivated and productive so not only the workers benefit but the company’s bottom line, as well?
“A good question that requires a long answer,” says Lesnick. “For now let me say that most employees value knowing that their ideas are welcome, the big picture is shared, additional opportunities for training are offered, and open communications are encouraged. These four things are essential to growing productivity and retention. A company’s bottom line is directly affected in a positive way when staff feel valued, trusted, and free to share ideas and perspectives.”
Food for thought
In addition to Lesnick’s opening presentation, the inaugural IB Think Tank features the following speakers and topics:
Perks and Pitfalls of the Remote Workplace
Speaker: Sasha Truckenbrod, branch manager, Robert Half
Employees now expect more flexibility in the workplace, which has led to the opportunity to work remotely. In this session, Sasha Truckenbrod will discuss managing the changing workplace in terms of corporate cohesion, accountability, and a creating a sense of community.
Offering Opportunities for Community Engagement
Speaker: Dan Rashke, CEO, TASC
Dan Rashke is one of the local leaders in understanding how giving back to the community is an integral component to an organization’s culture. He will draw on his first-hand experience to share best practices and show how strong involvement in the community can have a measurable impact on company success and employee retention.
Strategies for Diversity and Inclusion
Speaker: Angela R. Russell, director of diversity & inclusion, CUNA Mutual Group
Angela Russell will address the importance of fostering diversity in the workplace and share what your organization can do to overcome challenges with implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives. Whether you’re developing your first diversity strategy or evaluating your current practices, Russell will give you the tools to create an inclusive corporate culture that’s good for business.
How to Implement a New Corporate Culture
Speaker: Steve King, executive director of the Center for Professional and Executive Development, Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin–Madison
After we’ve laid the groundwork on some of the facets that organizations must consider when evaluating their culture, Steve King will provide the steps necessary for an organization to implement a new corporate culture. King will share insight on how to name the requisite culture needed to drive corporate visions and goals and implement a plan to institutionalize that culture.
Balancing Culture and Compliance in Your Company Handbook
Speaker: Jack D. Williams, general counsel, The QTI Group
Jack D. Williams will wrap up the day’s conversations with important items that you will need to consider from an operational standpoint with your organization, specifically in terms of your handbook. Williams will share insight into ways to adjust your company policies to support your new corporate culture while complying with the law, and will shed light on the important things to watch out for when drafting your revised handbook.
Please note, this event is limited to professionals with a VP-level title or higher, or those who are in the HR profession.
For more information and to register visit IBMadison.com/ThinkTank.
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