Creating an effective multi-generational team

Creating an effective multi-generational team

Why CIOs must adapt to the needs of three generations of IT staff

A major leadership challenge for CIOs is attracting, developing and retaining a talented, functioning, multi-generational team. Recent technological advancements, such as BYOD, have opened up the way for shifting the way work is traditionally undertaken, but each generation has its own needs and demands and CIOs must adapt their approach accordingly.

The workforce is largely made up of three very different generations: The baby boomers, who are deplaying their retirement plans; Generation X, who are climbing the corporate ladder; and Generation Y, who are entering the workforce.

Each of these generations has different expectations, assumptions, priorities and approaches to work and communication. If ignored, these differences can lead to misunderstanding and conflict and a lowering of productivity and effectiveness in teams. However, when appropriately managed, these differences can facilitate collaboration and leadership development across all generations of workers.

Baby boomers delaying retirement plans

Before the GFC, baby boomers were looking forward to a well-earned retirement underpinned by their superannuation funds. Since 2007, these funds have struggled to recover from losses incurred in the stock market falls which has forced many baby boomers to postpone their retirement plans.

HR experts have referred to this as a “demographic gift” for current leaders, who should be actively looking for ways to access the deep experience baby boomers posses and engaging them in mentoring programs to teach less experienced IT staff.

However, for many baby boomers are looking for a change from their nine-to-five work routine and dreaded daily commute.

As a result, CIOs should consider ways to:

  • Leverage virtualisation and other BYOD technologies to provide flexible working conditions, particularly hours and location of work.

  • Work with HR to restructure employment contracts and conditions to allow boomers the freedom to work and earn on their own terms.

  • Baby boomers won’t be around forever and will need to be replaced as the largest segment of the working population in leadership and management positions. CIOs need to be prepared for their exodus.

Training tomorrow's leaders

Generation X will have to step up to fill the leadership void left by the departing "boomers". The future success of many organisations will rely heavily on the leadership development initiatives they have in place.

CIOs will need to work with their learning and development teams and perhaps boomers to develop Generation X into strong, capable leaders, in particular the art of managing managers.

Generation X will have a lot to contend with: the demands of Generation Y, who expect and demand a flexible work environment and the ability to seamlessly integrate their personal and professional lives on their own technology. Generation X leaders will also have to contend with boomer stragglers who may be resistant to new technologies and workplace practices.

CIOs will have to adapt to measuring the performance of employees on outcomes not hours worked in the office as work practices and technology breaks down the traditional office. Generation X also responds well to coaching, guidance and increased opportunities and responsibilities so it makes sense to invest in formal leadership development programs.

They should be given opportunities to step outside their comfort zone (whilst coaching from the sidelines) to help them develop new skills. CIOs should also create a challenging atmosphere that provides them with a high degree of indepedence.

Some managers can find Generation Y more challenging to manage as they generally have no fear when it comes to challenging authority and the status quo. They’ll happily use their own personal smartphones and tablets at work regardless of what IT says.

Generation Y won’t be leading the workforce soon, but are starting to enter the management ranks. Experts counsel that it’s important to have a long-term outlook toward leadership development within any organisation.

How to win and retain new talent

  • Embrace BYOD to enable Generation Y to use their personal devices at work

  • Deploy virtualisation technologies to provide flexible work environments and locations

  • Consider a “high potential employee” identification program to groom selected staff members for access to extra training and projects that stretch them.

  • Be democratic and “partner” with Gen Y workers – make them feel like equals

  • Respect and support their focus on volunteerism by formalising volunteerism programs and rewarding employees for participating.

Enable tomorrow’s workplace for tomorrow’s leaders

CIOs must build a functioning multi-generational workforce. You have the opportunity to create a legacy by creating a better workplace for the leaders of tomorrow.

Oliver Descoeudres is marketing director at Logicalis Australia.

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