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4 Ways to Focus on People, Not Generation in 2020


Image: Viacheslav Iakobchuk -

In 2020, let’s stop focusing so much on generational differences. I know it’s a natural topic to discuss around the water cooler, but it detracts from what organizations should be trying to accomplish.
Over the past decade, there has been an almost unhealthy focus on Millennials. The world fixates on how this group is changing just about every aspect of the marketplace, including the workforce. It’s not untrue, but harping on it isn’t going to stem the change.
Now that Millennials are here and taking leadership roles in many organizations, the attention is turning to the next group entering the workforce, Generation Z. Can we commit to fixate less on these generational designations and start focusing on the people?
So much focus on the topic — and especially their differences — misses the more significant point. To be successful, organizations should stop focusing on the ages or generations of their workers and start focusing on the people who drive our business success.
Leaders must build relationships with their teams. They need to understand what drives their team members and how to motivate them. To do so, recognize these four themes and start focusing on the people and stop harping on the generations.
1. No Generation Has a Monopoly on Ideas
For whatever reason, we believe in stereotypes and focus on how people born in one era tend to act in a certain way, while workers born in another one behave differently. By concentrating so much on generations, which to some degree is an arbitrary definition, we forget to look at the people themselves.
We’ve effectively prejudged them and discounted their potential as human capital.
These generational definitions are nothing more than a broad way to identify and examine social trends; they are not the end-all, be-all. No one generation has a monopoly on good ideas. Everyone has a good idea and should be empowered to speak up.
Ideas come from one’s experiences, not one’s generation. Building a team based on the member’s knowledge base and skill set is the best way to recruit and put together a cohesive unit.
2. Talent Management Hampers Organizations
Agility is a growing buzzword in the talent management space. An agile workforce is better suited to adapt to the changing marketplace, but far too often, organizations’ antiquated processes hinder their ability to move forward.
Often, these legacy procedures force prospective employees to check a box, and these systems prioritize how one’s experience looks on paper. This approach, whether intended or not, looks at prospects based on their age — and, by default, generation.
The better part of valor is to opt for a system that looks at candidates for what they are: individuals. It is incumbent on hiring managers to better define what they seek in an ideal candidate and hire against those needs, not based on how many years a candidate has been working in a particular role. In other words, stop emphasizing “the ideal candidate has X years of experience” as the first line of the job description.
3. Provide Real Opportunities
One of the easiest ways leaders can show gratitude toward their teams is to provide them with real opportunities for growth. This again requires managers to know their colleagues and direct reports so they can develop a plan that’s aligned with their aspirations.
A recent Workplace Learning Report from LinkedIn found an astounding 94% of employees “would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.” Too often, managers look for opportunities to act after their reports resign. By then, it’s too late, and managers are left wondering what went wrong.
Determining what happened is simple; they didn’t bother to spend time building a personalized experience.
Yes, career development takes time and often costs money, but so too does hiring replacements. Replacing an employee costs upwards of 33% of their annual salary, an analysis from Employee Benefits News found, and Gallup estimates it costs businesses collectively at least $1 trillion annually.
It’s penny wise and pound foolish to opt against spending on career development, and it probably takes less time than reviewing resumes and scheduling interviews.
4. Make Time for Your Team
The world today moves faster than at any point in history. While this development has positive ramifications for the business world, as we are continuously connected, with this pace, we sometimes forget to pause and focus on the team around us.
Just one in five (20%) employees strongly agree their company’s performance review system motivates them, according to Gallup. Furthermore, a measly 14% say their manager’s feedback inspires them to improve.
An organization’s success shouldn’t solely be judged based on the number of hours worked and meeting deadlines. It’s about building teams with two-way mutual respect. Managers should respect their subordinates by making their direct reports’ best interests their own. Workers will respond with work that goes above and beyond expectations.
This has absolutely nothing to do with generations. In my experience, colleagues from every age bracket and background appreciate personal interactions, something that doesn’t have to cost more than a cup of tea.
When that happens, an organization is unstoppable. So, what are you doing to focus on your team?