How CIOs can build an effective multigenerational team

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 (excluding the Silent Generation, born between 1925-1945, who are now 95% retired).

  • The Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are delaying their retirement plans.
  • Generation X (born 1965-1977) is climbing the corporate ladder, and
  • Generation Y (born 1978-1989) is entering the workforce and embarking on their careers.

Each of these generations has different expectations, assumptions, priorities, and approaches to work and communication. Research has showed that 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 their retirement plans

Before the GFC, the Baby Boomers were looking forward to a well-earned retirement underpinned by their superannuation funds. Now, with Super funds struggling to recover from the losses incurred in the stock market falls since 2007, many Boomers are here to stay and have had to postpone their retirement plans. HR experts have referred to this as a “demographic gift” for current leaders. Current leaders should actively look for ways to access the deep experience Baby Boomers possess and engage then in mentoring programs, teaching the less experienced. However, for many Boomers they are looking for a change to the nine-to-five work routines and the dreaded daily commute. Leaders 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 an 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 the baby boomer exodus.

Generation X: 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 L&D 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.

Developing Generation X into leaders:

  • Leaders 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 responds well to coaching, guidance and increased opportunities and responsibilities. Invest in formal leadership development programs.
  • Give them opportunities to step outside their comfort zone (whilst coaching from the sidelines) to help them develop new skills
  • Create an atmosphere with a high degree of independence, challenge and fun

Generation Y: ready to be trained and nurtured

Generation Y can be a handful 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 say. 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 Generation Y talent:

  • Embrace BYOD to enable Generation Y to use their personal devices at work
  • Embrace virtualisation 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 multigenerational workforce. CIOs have the opportunity to create a legacy. They are the ones charged with the responsibility of creating a better workplace for the leaders of tomorrow. Tomorrow’s workplace will enable communication and collaboration in ways that were simply not possible in the past. It will create new opportunities for innovation, productivity and cost savings. It will be mobile, social, and visual.

Tags CIO, CIO Leadership, BYOD, IT leadership, Mobile workforce, workplace


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