Workplace Engagement, Generational Considerations, and Cultural Differences
BTM 7101, Assignment 7
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Joe Direnzo
12 March 2017
The twenty-first century workforce is an increasingly diverse workforce in more ways than one. Not only does this diversity include a variety of ethnic backgrounds and skill sets, but it is also an increasingly diverse workforce in terms of generational demographics as well. Research continues to show that there are currently four different generations actively employed in the workforce. (Al-Asfour, 2014) The presenting challenge for managers and leaders, in the midst of this diversity, is increasing employee commitment, developing cultural intelligence, and fostering employee motivation. These challenges will be discussed and analyzed specifically within the context of the current work environment of the author.
The challenge of increasing employee commitment remains one which all organizational leaders face. In this increasingly generationally diverse workforce, leaders must first understand and connect with employee values in order to increase employee commitment. In a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, and reported on by Larry Lettau, of National American University, and Ahmed Al-Asfour, of Oglala Lakota College, the values of each working generation were determined to be quite different. (Al-Asfour, 2014) With this in mind, leaders must have a dynamic leadership style fit to change as they seek to increase the commitment of each generation working within their organization. In other words, leaders cannot afford to have a static, unchanging style of leadership that remains constant and inflexible across the spectrum of their workforce. For example, in increasing employee commitment of the “Veterans” generation, leaders must address the core value of their hard work and dedication to the organization, while accomplishing this same objective with the “Baby Boomer” generation in providing them plenty of growth opportunities within the organization. (Al-Asfour, 2014) Similarly, increasing employee commitment of “Generation X” cannot be realized without highlighting a commitment to diversity and creating an informal workplace environment, while “Generation Y” will be committed to a company full of optimism, confidence in their abilities, and recognition of their achievements. (Al-Asfour, 2014)
The development of cultural intelligence within a generationally diverse workforce continues to be another pressing issue for organizational leaders. One reliable instrument for data collection in regards to cultural intelligence continues to be workplace surveys, and a recent survey conducted by the Deloitte University Press highlighted a tremendous challenge: only twelve percent of employees surveyed believed that their organizations were “excellent at effectively driving the desired culture”. (Brown, 2015) Leaders must be prepared to create a working environment which provides challenges which are both personally and professionally satisfying, and which are “values-driven” in nature. (Brown, 2015) As with the aforementioned challenge of employee commitment, this is indeed a perplexing task for organizational leaders when their multi-generational workforce holds competing values. However, author and researcher David Brown advises leaders that a culture shaped for the present and poised for sustainment into the future cannot be accomplished without listening to the generation known as the “Millennials”, or “Generation Y”. (Brown, 2015) This is, in large part, due to the fact that the values of this generation will continue to shape the organizational culture as Millennials matriculate into leadership positions.
Fostering employee motivation has always been a challenge for organizational leaders, but this challenge continues to grow in a multi-generational workforce with differing motivating factors. Personal interviews with both leaders and employees continues to be an effective instrument for data collection in connection with employee motivation. V. Kumar created a “scorecard” for measuring employee motivation based upon employee feedback about the company. Unsurprisingly, the employee engagement scorecard showed that low employee motivation leads not only to apathy, but also negatively impacts work performance and quality. (Kumar, 2015) Jennifer Mencl and Scott Lester reported that common motivating factors exist across every generation that organizational leaders can implement to fostering employee motivation across a wide-range of generations. Among these factors are included flexible work arrangements, a healthy work-life balance, and adequate financial reward. (Mencl, 2014)
High-level Analysis of Current Workplace
My current workplace environment is very much reflective of the multi-generational workforce reported in the various articles and sources cited throughout this paper. Currently, I oversee a non-profit organization with approximately twenty-five employees and more than fifty volunteers spanning from “Generation Y”, born from 1981-2000, to the “Veteran” generation, born from 1922-1943. This would encompass the four generations reported about by the cited authors.
Employee commitment continues to be a challenge due to the competing and differing values of the various generations. For example, two employees working very closely together include a “Generation Y” employee, who has been with the organization for less than one year, and an early “Baby Boomer” employee, who has been with the organization for more than thirty years. One of these employees demonstrates noticeable irritation with any mention of feedback and development, while the other employee almost demands it as a necessary function of the job. In this small example, an attempt at increasing employee motivation is received very favorably by one employee while the same attempt at motivation is perceived as an insult by another, thereby detracting from employee motivation.
Similarly, the development of cultural intelligence is a challenge which must be approached with flexibility and diplomacy. There has existed, for a period of decades, a certain workplace culture shaped entirely by generations of the “Veterans” and “Baby Boomers”. However, as these generations are exiting the workforce and the volunteer base, their slots are being filled by “Generation X” and “Generation Y”, to include influential leadership positions. The result is often a perceived “clash of cultures” and conflict of values, which only detracts from cultural intelligence across the organization. However, as previously noted, the creation and development of cultural intelligence must not be developed and shaped apart from the input of members of “Generation Y” as they comprise an increasing percentage of the workforce and, more importantly, leadership positions within the organization.
Likewise, the challenge of developing employee commitment continues to be a perplexing task. Older generations of employees and volunteers have a demonstrated commitment to the organization, but a shift in the realm of culture and motivation often negatively impact that level of commitment. The challenge remains in the task of retaining that high level of commitment, while continuing to find motivating factors which positively contribute to cultural intelligence and increase employee commitment to the vision driving the new culture of the organization.
Ideas for a Topic of Study
There exist a large number of possibilities which could form a viable topic of study within this topic. However, one interesting topic of study which merits future study and research is the ability of the organizational leader to discover and develop motivating factors and incentives which are multi-generational and positively contribute to both employee commitment as well as cultural intelligence. One possibility exists with the development of cross-generational employee relationships, which one author referred to as “two-way mentoring plans”. (Schullery, 2013) In this methodology, the human relationship is developed and the differing values and competing cultural ideas are no longer a faceless enemy, but rather, are embodied by a co-worker with which a close relationship has been developed. This particular topic of study would, no doubt, yield results which would be beneficial for organizations of any size.
In reflecting on the current state of our organization, it provides a measure of encouragement that the challenges we face are generational challenges being faced by every organization across multiple continents. While these challenges must be addressed, there are ways to address these challenges which have proven and researched ideas and methodology attached to them which can yield positive results. While these must be carried out with diplomacy by the leadership, positive results are certainly possible in each of the three areas discussed above.
Nick Petrie wrote about an IBM study conducted in 2009 which listed the most important skill for the future leader as simply “creativity”. (Petrie, 2014) The research seems referenced in this paper seems to corroborate with his statement. Leaders must be creative in leading and communicating with a multi-generational workforce, while continually using “all types of motivational language” which speak to each generation and address their unique values. (Sarros, 2014) Current and future leaders must develop this creativity if they wish to see progression in the areas of employee commitment, cultural intelligence, and employee motivation. Without these crucial factors, organizations will suffer and, ultimately, fail. However, creative, dynamic, and flexible leaders who are adjusting their own leadership styles to fit the generations of the individual worker being addressed can see a positive impact in these areas if they are willing to adjust their approach to fit their audience.
Al-Asfour, A., Lettau, L. (2014). Strategies for Leadership Styles for Multi-Generational Workforce. Journal of Leadership, Accountability, and Ethics, 11(2), 58-69. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
Brown, D., Melian, V., Solow, M. (2015). Culture and Engagement: The Naken Organization. Deloitte University Press, 1-17. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
Kumar, V., Pansari, A. (2015). Measuring the Benefits of Employee Engagement. MIT Sloan Management Review, 56(4), 67-72. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
Mencl, J., Lester, S. (2014). More Alike Than Different: What Generations Value and How the Values Affect Employee Workplace Perceptions. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 21(3), 257-272. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
Petrie, N. (2014). Future Trends in Leadership Development. Center for Creative Leadership, 1-31. Retrieved March 5, 2017.
Sarros, J. C., Luca, E., Densten, I., & Santora, J. (2014). Leaders and their use of motivating language. Leadership & Organizational Development Journal, 35(3), 226-240. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
Schullery, N. (2013). Workplace Engagement and Generational Differences in Values. Business Communication Quarterly, 76(2), 252-265. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
NG, LR, NCU, USAR
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