Diversity Woman Magazine

FALL 2012

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

Issue link: https://diversitywoman.epubxp.com/i/91258

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Page 31 of 79

We Mean Business > Creating a Responsive Work Environment "Most companies appreciate the need for generational diversity, and part of it is, frankly, just having a pipeline for leader- ship," says Lauren Leader-Chivee, senior vice president at the Center for Talent In- novation in New York. "If you have an or- ganization that's entirely staffed by baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), entrepreneurship at work," Leader-Chivee says. "Google is the model, in many ways. It's a very flat hierarchy, it's very innova- tive, and people drive their own agendas. Tat's what many Xers have in mind when they think of their ideal workplace." Features of that model can be seen at companies like Cisco, which enables em- ployees—regardless of where they are in Gen Yers are driven by mission and vision [and have] little interest in the structured nine-to-five workday. for instance, your organization is at risk, because as they start heading toward retirement, you need to have an experi- enced pipeline to fill those roles." Tese days, however, the recession has prompted many workers who were edg- ing toward retirement to stay put, and that trend has consequences. "Boomers are staying in their jobs, on average, nine years longer than they did before the re- cession, and Gen X (born between 1965 and 1978) is caught squarely in the mid- dle," Leader-Chivee says. "You have this very ambitious group of Gen Xers who are coming up behind them and aspire to leadership, and they're wondering when there will be opportunities for them. Gen X has 10-plus years of work experience and is ready to lead." In response, some companies are help- ing boomer employees retire gently, over time. "Companies like MITRE have a phased retirement program, where em- ployees can slowly phase out on a part- time basis," Greenfield says. Meanwhile, companies are evolving to suit the way employees want to work today. "Gen Xers are hugely entrepreneurial and independent," Leader-Chivee says. "We see an increasing number of Xers leave their big corporate jobs to start small businesses or go to work for start-ups." At the recession's height, more than one-fifth of employed Gen Xers were actively job hunting. "Tere's a big opportunity for large companies to leverage Gen Xers more ag- gressively by allowing them to have more 30 DIVERSITY WOMAN Fall 2012 the corporate hierarchy—to take leader- ship roles and be entrepreneurial. A few years ago, Cisco launched its Executive Action Learning Forum, a program de- signed to develop top talent while bump- ing up the company's innovation. Te 16-week program, held twice an- nually, is open to 60 employees who are among the best in their area. Tey are grouped into six teams that are diverse in age, gender, and function. Te teams compete against each other to launch a new sky's-the-limit product. To date, forum teams have generated more than $35 billion of what Cisco calls "new value creation." One idea—a Smart Grid that revamps energy grids to make them fast- er and more cost-effective—is expected to bring in $10 billion of revenue over the next five years. Whereas Gen X may be the first truly entrepreneurial generation, Millenials, also called Gen Y (born between 1979 and 1994), takes its expectations even further. "Gen Xers and are willing to work within the system, while Gen Yers are more likely to challenge the funda- mentals," Leader-Chivee says. "Gen Yers are turning down lucrative job offers at major companies to work at Kiva.org or in some other idealized environment. Tey're driven by mission and vision. Tey're questioning the need to be physi- cally in the office. Tey have very high expectations around technology. Tey're looking for odyssey and adventure in the workplace—not just a job." Gen Y has little interest in the struc- tured, nine-to-five workday that their parents had. One study found that 37 percent of Gen Yers would take a pay cut in exchange for more job flexibility, and more than half prioritize being able to ac- cess Facebook and other social media at work over a higher salary. Finding Common Ground Despite generational differences between boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y, employees of different ages are finding that they have much in common. For ex- ample, Gen Y employees may be actively pushing for more workplace flexibility, but other generations value it, too. "It used to be that the flexibility policy was written for the working mom, but now a flexibility program has to be writ- ten for the grandparent who wants to take care of a grandchild, or the 25-year- old who wants to be in a band part-time," Greenfield says. "Now, there are 30-year- olds who are dealing with aging parents and there might be a 50-year-old who's dealing with aging parents. It's not so gen- erational anymore. Te lines are blurred." As a result, companies are getting cre- ative. Deloitte, for example, provides Mass Career Customization. Te pro- gram allows employees to modify four dimensions of work—pace, workload, lo- cation, and role. Troughout their career, employees of all ages can dial the inten- sity of their work life up or down to com- plement the ebbs and flows of their life circumstances. It benefits everyone, from a new parent, to an employee who wants to return to school part-time, to a worker who wants to climb Mount Everest. Companies have found that when em- ployees from different generations have honest discussions, they discover that they have much more in common—in terms of what they want from work and from life— than they might have imagined. "What's really interesting is that people really relate to the generational issue," Leader-Chivee says. "It's something that's a connector, not a divider." DW Kim Olson is DW's managing editor. www.diversitywoman.com

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