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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.

"The great managers are like chefs who combine unique ingredients into a wonderful meal. Weak managers, on the other hand, tend to rule by one-size-fits-all edicts rather than empowering the team to meet customer needs in creative ways," he says.


3. Make time to discuss the issues

It should not be hard to find examples of likely stereotypes that are not true -- a part-timer who is ripping great code, a working mother who is one of the most innovative producers, or a 'youngster' who is strategic and savvy, says Schiemann. "The reverse is also true-a Baby Boomer could be the one who is teaching younger cohorts about technology. Use town halls and other forums to surface the issues. Solutions begin with awareness," he says.


4. Role play

Bring people to a training event or company party and ask them to role play a member of a different generation or another often-stereotyped group. Ask other members to treat them as a member of that group. Ask them to project how they think someone with that 'label' would talk and interact. Uncomfortable, right? The point of this exercise is to highlight how quickly assumptions are made and how often they're not true, Schiemann says.


5. Avoid one-size-fits-all programs

In its 2016 Workplace Index, Staples Business Advantage found that one-size-fits-all programs are ineffective in managing multiple generations in the workplace because each generation is driven by different motivations. One generation stands out as being more motivated at work by a sense of purpose, and it's not who you might think.

Baby Boomers (46 percent) and Generation X (32 percent) are more motivated by having a sense of purpose at work than their younger Millennial counterparts (24 percent), according to the Staples Business Advantage 2016 Workplace Index research. That means you have to take into account individual factors when you're trying to engage, motivate and retain your workforce, but it's as much about what you don't do as what you do, says Schiemann.

It is demeaning, for example, to require leaders who already have highly engaged people to attend engagement training because it is 'de rigueur,' says Schiemann. "This penalizes leaders who could be the ones teaching the program to reach the leaders who really need it-sounds like everyone in class being punished because a few came late! Ask HR and other guardians of people processes to avoid one-size-fits-all programs; recognize differentiation and manage to it," he says.

The bottom line: you can never go wrong treating people with respect and as individuals, Schiemann says. It is time to overcome traditional and emerging stereotypes and begin thinking about how your organization can leverage those differences to be more innovative and to begin matching the energy of the individual with the energy of the organization, he says.


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