In my post from last week, I got a little crabby about all of the talk about generations. I won’t deny that the issue of multiple generations in the workplace is causing challenges (and opportunities). I certainly won’t disagree that we need to pay attention to the distinct needs of each generation and that failing to do this well has grave implications.


What I am saying is, that instead of trying to make your business, your educational institution, your health care facility or your church relevant you should seek to make the generational divide irrelevant. Stop building a “millennial friendly” marketing campaign and start meeting the needs of your customers. Stop trying to add a hipster vibe to your enterprise and start over delivering and over serving those you are entrusted to serve.

Here is a list of 10 ways to make the generation mix irrelevant.

  1. Anticipate needs

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky said his key to his success was to “Skate to where the puck will be, not where it is.” The same is true here. Anticipate what your employees will want from their employment experience. Ask them today what they are looking for tomorrow. Ask young workers and not so young workers. Ask those coming into your workplace and those leaving. Ask those you want but don’t want you and then keep listening and keep asking.

  1. Recruit your current employees

Let’s think of recruitment like dating or courtship. You put your best foot forward when dating. You have fun, share experiences, and get to know one another. Then the wedding bells ring and the real work begins. It’s the same at work, recruitment is exciting and the real work Focus on actively recruiting your current workforce by showing you value them, appreciate them and you care about them. People all want to be known and needed. Look at each individual on your org chart and ask yourself, “Does this person feel known and needed?”

  1. Help everyone achieve their goals

If you have an employee that dreams of owning their own business or getting into management do what you can to help them achieve their dreams. If they want to learn skills and build a portfolio of results to get their job, help them do that. Yes, you may lose them as they pursue their dream, but along the way, you have a great protégé that is going to be eager to learn and perform.

  1. Get over yourself – put your employees first.

Don’t ever take your employees for granted and expect they love working for you or your company as much as you do. Having a customer centric organization is good but having an employee first culture is transformational. One is the effect and the other a cause. If you have an employee first (cause) organization you will in turn have a great customer centric (effect) culture. Look at your decisions, policies and overall practices and ask “Is this best for the employees?”

  1. Get comfortable with Quid Pro Quo

Loyalty today is defined as what can you do for me? This is ok and it is reality. We think of quid pro quo as a bad thing when really it isn’t. Everything is a tradeoff. You are asking for more time and energy from your employees so it is fair that they should get something in return. You are giving them a good job, decent pay and opportunities to build skills, it should be ok that you expect something in return for them. The best part of this quid pro quo mindset is that it goes both ways. It should be a contest to see who is getting the better end of the deal, you or your employees.

  1. Fire people – regularly

This sounds harsh, but it isn’t. Most organizations with more than 30 employees have someone that probably shouldn’t be there. It isn’t that they are bad people necessarily but they have actively disengaged and are doing more harm than good. This could have been a hiring mistake, a training mistake or just a natural cycle of life. If you have let them know their performance isn’t up to par, you’ve given them tools and training to succeed, you have put them in roles that focus on their strengths and they still aren’t performing, it’s time to cut them loose. Don’t hold people hostage that don’t want to be a contributor to your organization. Do them and the rest of your employees a favor.

I realize that it’s not this easy for some organizations or in different countries but the fact remains, actively disengaged employees do more harm than good. Do something about it. You owe it to everyone else.

  1. Stop the programs

Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong with wellness initiatives, company picnics, bowling parties and lunch-n-learns. However, when these are management or HR initiatives and not driven and brought about by the employees, they are not valued as much. Find people with passions and desires to do something and put resources and support behind them. Employee run initiatives trump management programs every time.

  1. Embrace and celebrate differences

“The same level of thinking that got you into this problem won’t get you out of it.” Albert Einstein

Different thinking and different approaches are critical to a thriving environment. One of the reasons why the generational clash exists is because we allow it. We allow finger pointing, blaming and complaining. Put people of different skills, knowledge and experiences in positions to learn from one another. Create opportunities for idea sharing and make it easy for people to share their perspectives so others can learn from them and value them.

  1. Standards not rules

At the SHRM conference Coach K said he prefers standards over rules. Rules you must obey, standards you seek to uphold. AMEN. Again, rules generally are set by management and enforced by management. Standards typically are set by team members and enforced by them as well. Rules tend to stay static and not change, standards on the other hand may change as often as each new situation demands.

  1. Invest in leaders

The success of your teams, your departments, your locations, divisions and regions isn’t dependent on your company policies or processes. Your differential advantage or strategic initiatives don’t point to your success. The leaders of each of these groups are the answer to your success. Invest in them. As Marcus Buckingham says, “We don’t need leadership, we need leaders.” Find yours and invest heavily in them.

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children now are tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”