By CEO Jim Annis
If those letters put a sinking feeling in your stomach, you probably had a kid tell you “XYZ PDQ” on the grade school playground. “Examine Your Zipper Pretty Darn Quick” meant your zipper was down. Upon its utterance, you probably did some quick damage control action like a quick zip up, during which you developed a flush red face and then quickly switched to prevention through a mental process along the lines of, “How did I miss that?” or, “How can I prevent that next time?”
We have been trend spotting for almost ten years now not only as a columnist in this paper but as thought leaders in the HR industry. One of our first articles in 2009 recognized that there were four generations working side by side for the first time in the workplace. We learned a lot from the four-generation experience. We made a great deal of mistakes. That “four thing” was huge, but today’s “big idea” will crush that. Why? Never has there been an opportunity like we have with Gen Z coming into the workforce. Most of the other articles you will see directly deal with their characteristics in isolation or compared to other generations. Here is our spin on it that you can use to revolutionize your industry…seriously.
The efficacy of the working relationship between Generations X, Y and Z is going to be critical for any business success. Start now. Consider your X, Y and Z employees as a cohesive working unit versus distinctly different and disjointed. If you do not grasp this concept you might get caught with your pants down and unprepared for what's to come. Determine X, Y and Z strengths and weaknesses (based on research) and begin to define what you need from each generation in your workplaces. Your goal is to create purposeful working units which - without exception - include employees from each generation. Creating BFF (best friends forever) between generations? Well…yes. Proactively preventing generational discord by creating a collaborative atmosphere in an opportunity for your company to be leaders in your own industries.
Begin to train this triad of generations to engage in management responsibilities and communication now. Since the Boomer began to retire, the brain drain has been devastating. Let's not repeat that. Gen X are going to be "senior staff" we need processes to capture and transfer their knowledge (like yesterday) because some are in their early 50s and retirement may be around the corner. Gen Y is going to be management who will mold Gen Z. Don’t panic. Changes in technology have facilitated the potential for this triad experiment to not only work but work well.
Gen Z is an enormous population so helping them feel welcomed and integrated from day one is crucial. Blurring of lines has increased throughout our last ten years of human experience and that’s a good thing. When Boomers were young, jobs were siloed by both by type and gender. Access to news was limited to a key figure, Walter Cronkite on a national level, but also on a local level, because if four people were killed in Moline, IL, in 1960, no one heard about it, except those living in Moline.. Now, everything is at our fingertips in an instant access through the internet and/or social media. Gen Z requires “getting back to” old fashioned style communication, largely because they were ignored by their parents who were glued to their phone and then later other devices. Capitalize on in it. Allow opportunities through workspace design and impromptu gathering spaces where people can chat. Give up freaking out about productivity. Let it go. Your employees will work hard for the six hours they are going to work, which is the average demonstrated through research. Allow them the other two hours to do what they want within reason and bond through the triad concept.
What will be the measurable result? At least, everyone will embrace, or at least accept, this combination of XYZ instead of complaining about it. At best, you will have created cohorts that can transform your business in a positive manner and you’ll have a model by which to replicate future success as new generations enter over time.