By William Carmichael
I recently saw a comic that poked fun of our aging workforce and it went something like this. An elderly gentleman with a cane was interviewing for a job when the hiring manager said, “Maybe I shouldn’t ask where you see yourself in five years?” Clearly meant as humor, this scenario actually speaks volumes about where are today with multigenerational workforces now in play. Why are we still surprised when we see not just more Baby Boomers remaining on the job but with much younger co-workers competing for many of the same roles? Let’s face it. Retirement at 65 is no longer the norm. Perhaps we need to rethink this age diversity phenomenon and Clash of the Generations: Managing the New Workplace Reality by Valerie Grubb does a superb job of helping us doing just this.
Why This Is a Must-Read
Clash of the Generations: Managing the New Workplace Reality explores this increasingly common workplace phenomenon and provides strategies to help managers navigate this complex maze. Think about it this way. Traditionally, older workers would retire and make room for the next generation; instead, Baby Boomers are now prolonging their time in the workplace, yet the successive generations are still coming in. Therefore, senior leaders are left to manage a blended workplace comprised of up to four generations- each with their own ideas of work ethic, work/life balance, long-term career goals, and much more. I am sure you will agree that management is challenging at the best of times but the new prevalence of generation gaps- sometimes even layered- add an entirely new dimension to an already complex responsibility.
What this book does extremely well is clarify the generations involved today; Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation Xers (1965-1980), Millennials (1981-1977), and the newest generation to this mix- Generation Zers (1998-present). To borrow from the author, each generation in the workplace has value; each has their own strengths, their own weaknesses, and their own unique talents. And by identifying what each generation brings to the workplace, the author provides the reader with the needed information to help make sense of it all. In doing so, Grubb specifically addresses the generational characteristics managers need to understand and states, “In order to manage people, you need to understand them. And because generation-based experiences and attitudes greatly influence not only how employees do their own jobs but also how they relate to other employees, anyone who manages a multigenerational workplace should prioritize understanding those experiences and attitudes.”
What intrigued me from the onset was the author’s clear and undeniable command of not just generational differences but of the impact these generations have on the workplace. As an example, Grubb draws upon her extensive experiences as a manager herself and on her vast experience as an industry consultant to expand on the changing roles of leadership, managers, HR professionals and employees happening today in every industry. And many of these changes are alarming! To quote the author, “The results of a 2016 CareerBuilder study support the belief that employees have one eye on the door: 76 percent of full-time employed workers are either actively looking for an open to new job opportunities. In an earlier CareerBuilder study, 69 percent of respondents indicated that searching for new opportunities was a part of their regular daily routine, with 30 percent of them actively looking every week.” As a manager myself, these statistics scare me to death! So what ever happened to loyalty you may ask? Certainly career opportunities do present themselves but we as managers and leaders can minimize this tendency to exit if we better understand what makes these generations different and that is what makes this book so valuable.
Structure, Layout, and Content
Readers will appreciate the book’s practical structure and flow. Chapter 1, for example, begins with current trends in organizational leadership, management, HR, and employees. Certainly each relates but is not overshadowed by the critical generational definitions the author reviews in Chapter 2. The author’s strategy is wise for by allowing the reader to recognize what is taking place right now within organizations, each generation’s personality and characteristics have new meaning. Eleven short chapters in all, Grubb effectively presents ways any manager can utilize an invaluable new skillset- that of better understanding their age diverse workforce and how to better manage themselves among them. As an example, as a former corporate trainer I was naturally drawn to Chapter 6 and the realities managers face when trying to find out the best way to present material so that the employee can best learn and retain the information. Grubb refers to this task as accommodating different learning styles. True, all individuals do have their own style of learning preference but this is also pertinent to generational differences. Where Gen Zers prefer technology to learn new methods, Baby Boomers clearly may not and managers must be able to quickly distinguish methodologies for both.
Clash of the Generations: Managing the New Workplace Reality provides today’s management, insight and clarity into the many generational forces at work. The importance of fostering a culture of inclusion, establishing workable parameters of performance expectations, how best to manage differences in work ethic that exist, and motivating at all generational levels is expertly reviewed. Additionally, Grubb effectively provides case studies on six organizations that successfully manage diverse workforces at all levels. From how they recruit, manage, communicate, promote positive change, as well as establish and maintain culture through generational diversity. Clash of the Generations is also an excellent reference guide for field managers where chapters and topics stand on their own merit and are easily identifiable.
Chapter 1- The new workplace reality
Chapter 2- Defining the generations
Chapter 3- Fostering a culture of inclusion
Chapter 4- Setting the stage for great performance
Chapter 5- Being an inclusive manager
Chapter 6- Promoting growth opportunities
Chapter 7- Managing differences in work ethic
Chapter 8- Managing different work-life balance expectations
Chapter 9- Managing differences in career development planning
Chapter 10- Generational give and take
Chapter 11- You as the motivating force
Exhibits- Case studies
Who Will Benefit Most From This Book?
Managers, trainers, human resource professionals and organizational leaders.
Valerie M. Grubb is founder of the consulting firm Val Grubb & Associates Ltd. She is an innovative, visionary operations leader with an exceptional ability to zero in on the systems, processes, and human capital issues hampering a company’s success.