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5 steps to ending generational stereotypes

Sharon Florentine | May 18, 2017
Stereotypes of any kind are harmful to an organisation, and that includes generational stereotypes. Here's how to get rid of them.


1. Expand diversity and inclusion training

If you don't have a program aimed at diversity and inclusion, you are late to the game, Schiemann says. Many of those programs have focused primarily on race and gender but fail to address generational stereotyping effectively. Rob Bruce, vice president of strategy at Kimble Associates says it's important to understand what different generations can bring to the table, especially the much-maligned millennials. Kimble's research, the Billing and Burnout Report, polled more than 1,200 respondents through a Google Consumer survey and found that millennials may be more responsible than they are given credit for.

When tasked with managing their time and hours, nearly a third (32 percent) of respondents age 25-34 submit their billable hours to management daily, compared with 30 percent of those over 35. Close to one half (44 percent) of professionals submit their hours on a weekly basis, but that figure is higher at 48 percent for those aged 25-34, the research shows.

"The folklore of the 'me generation' does not lend itself to the perception of millennials as well organized, dedicated professionals. However, based on the Kimble report, we see this is just not true. And, in fact, millennials are uniquely set up for this because they're constantly checking in, they are constantly looking for feedback, and they also are able to use technology to make work/life balance happen. They also see what working all the time did for their own parents so they are making sure that they aren't neglecting their lives," Bruce says.

But there are other forms of stereotyping -- think about working mothers, dual-career couples, part-timers, and many other stereotypes that persist, says Schiemann.

"The real issues that leaders should be focused on are performance, innovation, service, quality and employee desires, and that will help bridge any artificial differences," he says.


2. Add fulfillment training

Fulfillment training is about designing your workforce to take advantage of each person's specific strengths and interests and aligning them with tasks and projects. So, for example, if you have someone who is a great programmer, you put them on tough software problems instead of making them interact with the marketing team or customers.

Don't stop your efforts at diversity and inclusion, which is great for creating awareness, but often doesn't move beyond sensitivity, says Schiemann. That's a mistake. "Help managers and employees develop skills needed to increase fulfillment, which will align and energize people across many different walks of life. In a restaurant chain that we diagnosed a few years ago, we found that great managers were deeply familiar with their people -- who had a sick parent, needed a schedule to work around school, or was dealing with work-life balance issues," Schiemann says. Fulfillment training can help highlight differences and strengths to better address things like who's the best person to interface with customers or whose efficiency is best for certain tasks or roles, he says. That type of insight separates good from bad managers.


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