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Business Innovation to "Win the Future"

Generationally Segregated Workplaces

A four-generation workplace is unique to the 21st Century. We, at VIP Innovations, believe that a major roadblock to innovation in the new millennium is a lack of generational respect that is experienced by workers themselves and reinforced by management. Without mutual respect and a commitment to motivate everyone to forge ahead, a culture of innovation in companies cannot succeed. It must be a joint effort which should be led by senior leadership.

The four generations in today’s workforce are:

• Traditionalist - born 1922-1946, ‘defining moments’ for this generation include the Great Depression and WWII

• Baby Boomers - born from 1946-1964, ‘defining moments’ for this generation include Civil Rights, Woodstock, and The Beatles

• Generation X’-ers - born from 1965-1980, ‘defining moments’ for this generation include The Gulf War, Atari, and Nintendo

• Millennials (also called Generation Y’-ers) - born from 1981-2000, ‘defining moments’ for this generation include the Internet and social networking

It’s quite common for people of different generations to have trouble understanding and valuing one another’s culture and communications styles. But in a business environment, this lack of understanding creates a ‘segregated’ workplace. Traditionalist, Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, Gen Y’ers, each line up with their peers and eye those outside their age group with suspicion and a lack of respect for each other.

Because they may be unaccustomed to new ways to approach problem-solving and uncomfortable with their lack of knowledge in that area, Traditionalist and Baby Boomers may label the progressive thinking and ground-breaking ideas that their younger employees offer as ‘impulsive’ or ‘too risky.’ By the same token, the Gen X and Gen Y workers may dismiss the input of older employees as ‘out of touch’ or ‘rigid.’

But, we like to point out that “Innovation is the intersection of the past and present that leads to the future.” Because of this, management must publicly acknowledge the contribution of each generation, applaud the unique strengths brought to the table by workers of different ages, and encourage everyone to share their viewpoints as a way to make a strong team even stronger. It’s vital that corporate leaders understand the value of the different generations and then communicate that value to their managers as part of an organizational philosophy and goal...with specific activities to help achieve that goal.

One key activity is to replace the traditional corporate culture of fear-based performance evaluation with an environment of "support-based performance coaching".

Performance Management is an Ongoing Process

Traditionally, performance reviews are performed once or twice a year, and generally linked to salary compensation. This immediately creates an atmosphere of apprehension and distrust rather than growth.

Let's point to an examples of employees rushed through an evaluation with a lack of consistency in feedback from managers whose primary goal is to ‘get it over with.’ Other performance appraisals are comparative, ranking employees against each other based on performance which is the very antithesis of team-building.

In truth, the employees on the receiving end of an evaluation are likely to be hungry for feedback that they have not received often...if at all. They are often shocked to learn that the tasks they performed weren’t the ones the manager wanted or expected. At the same time, managers are concerned that bad employee performance evaluations reflect badly on themselves, so they short change the entire process and render it ineffective.

Currently, performance evaluation casts a manager in the role of a judge and an employee in the role of defendant. But performance coaching turns a manager into a Coach...someone who is rooting for the employee to win for himself or herself, as well as the organization...and it turns an employee into a motivated team player.

Looking to the Future and Asking ‘Why Not?’

Another objection to a once-a-year performance evaluation model is its backwards-focused nature. Once-a-year performance evaluations look almost exclusively at past performance and seldom include any time for looking ahead to new goals and challenges.

This is important because identified goals – which are the ‘stretch goals’ – give employees the confidence to try new things and to learn from their experiences. When people are confident that they can try and fail, it frees their thinking and unleashes their creativity.

Bobby Kennedy is perhaps best known for his statement, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” And in response to President Obama's challenge to Americans in his 2011 State of The Union address to ‘win the future,’ we at VIP Innovations believe that it is imperative for American businesses to foster innovation with an open corporate culture where ‘legacy’ knowledge holders and “ground-breaking” thinkers are given equal respect.

People need to come together and join forces in order for this country to succeed. But in politics as well as in business, leadership is sometimes slow on the uptake. When that happens, leaders must be willing to stand aside and give their people the freedom and the power to guide the way.

About Eva Jenkins
Eva Jenkins is a leading consultant on business and staffing topics, and the driving force at VIP Innovations, LLC. Her goal is to position clients so that they may respond to, and more importantly anticipate, the precedent-setting ‘human capital’ challenges that face businesses as they evolve. She is also co-author of "Conversations on Success", a collection of powerful interviews with accomplished entrepreneurs in a variety of industries

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Eva Jenkins, VIP Innovations, LLC
15620 Ryder Cup Dr - St. 203
Haymarket, VA 20169

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