Making it Happen for a multi-generational workforce really can be as easy as X,Y,Z…

In conversation with HR & Performance Director, Gail Weathers

Today I was asked the question of what makes a business successful? Seems an easy enough question doesn’t it?

But when I gave it a bit more thought I realised that the answer actually wasn’t so easy – sure, there’s the usual requirements – must have a product or a selling point, a brand, an audience, a journey plan, a goal, must make money, be sustainable, and all of these would be in the standard tick box answer column if the question had been asked in this mode: but it hadn’t, and I was required to provide an answer that was profound or revolutionary or inspired… hmmm… “well” I replied “for me there is a key ingredient that takes all of the above and mixes it up a bit to create a success; it is quite simply people”

My interviewer twitched. This obviously wasn’t the answer they were looking for but bear with …

Within HR it is almost a given that at some point the ‘people factor’ will be questioned – what do they do? do we need them? do we need more? Can we streamline? can a computer do their job etc …. These conversations happen over and over year-on-year in many if not most organisations.
People are a complexity within any environment, and we cannot simply turn them off at the end of the day.

They are also an expense (grouped together most probably the company’s biggest expense) but they still often remain the last point on the Agenda.

Yet in reality these people make the machinery turn, they play with and create numbers and opportunity, they nurture or design and weave in and out of every crevice of a business to make it the success it is – so I am happy to stand by my point.

Thankfully my interviewer was now listening a bit more. Resource’s company strapline is “Making It Happen” so they ask how our people do this and if there is a secret ingredient after all?

There’s no real secret, but I do refer back to the key ingredient; there is no true definition of people … we simply refer to them as a person, an abler who can change everything and everyone if given enough power. History is there to remind us of how we get things right and how we can get it so
wrong – wars, recession, politics, religion; we have learnt a great deal from what went before us and even in today’s world of “SMART” and “SOCIAL” the key principle of achievement is still down to how people engage and create the world of tomorrow.

There’s always a little bit of history in what Resource do; it ensures our tomorrow is secure and stable. We see our journey very much like the “Bus Analogy” … I personally find the phrase “Are you getting on my bus?” extremely inspiring. I have always been so inquisitive as to where it is going… true, some people get off, some even get run over, but mostly I find our people clamber for the front seat upstairs with a clear vision of where the next stop is and perhaps who is getting on it then…
My interviewer I sense is starting to think I am a bit of a dreamer and not really interested in the ‘business’ of well, business… but they couldn’t be more wrong.

Of course we need all the other ingredients to make our business the success it is, and you do need to stop the bus occasionally; to take in the destination for it to remain in focus. But you also have to look under the bonnet, find out what’s going on with the engine so to speak… To keep people motivated you must allow them to view the journey as a new passenger, the conductor perhaps, most importantly the driver. Driving the bus can be a battle for leadership and with multi-generational workforces, each generation will have different mindsets, opinions and theories on how a journey should begin and end … It’s a very simple business analogy but it really works for us – our employees’ destination is just as important as the Resource journey, so why not open up the wheel ?!

But getting back to the initial question from my interviewer, what makes it more special (and our key ingredient) is that our bus queue is multi-generational.

Our business is just about made up of the 5 generations which we define:
· Traditionalists – born before 1945
· Baby Boomers – born 1946 to 1964
· Generation X – born 1965 to 1980
· Generation Y or Millennials – born 1981 to 1995
· Generation Z – born 1996 to present

This in itself is a major achievement. Also a challenge, and very much an opportunity.

Creating a multi-generational workforce is no easy task and in fairness ours was fairly organic. But we have certainly made the most of it; we shaped it and our people have driven it forward. We are lucky enough to have the view of the traditionalists who know what it was like to print way before the shiny new machines we have today; the baby boomers who had their own challenges to create and innovate without the equality we see today; generation X who perhaps experienced the biggest opportunity with changes in political power, technology and a little thing called the internet, (not to mention the best music decade ever!), generation Y who entered a working environment where everything was “now, now, now” and finally generation Z who perhaps bring the most open and visible opportunity to us. Everything they see is shared, social, inclusive and available; at the touch of the button that generation X created. # that one….

Bringing our different cultures, experiences and generational values together makes us a stronger company. Everyone has a seat on the bus; there is an equality regardless of which stop you got on, we take turns to who sits where, who will give their seat up and who drives us to the next destination.

My interviewer asks if I see multi-generational culture as an asset or a liability… I understand what they are asking – it’s a commitment and a skill to keep a workforce engaged, happy and motivated to share their experiences with the next generation. People naturally find it hard to let go, see the
world changing, but we cannot ignore that it does. In business it is 100% vital that your people change and adapt to the influences put before us.

Generations are living longer; our traditionalists and baby boomers have a lifetime of adventures which they can take future generations on. Generation X are the leaders of our future and Generations Y & Z teach us about technology, a digital and virtual world creating and innovating for
the next journey – It really can be as easy as X, Y, Z…

Having a Multi-generational workforce definitely works for us and our bus journey is still destination “Making it Happen”

“Brilliant, when can I hop on”? asks the interviewer!

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