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Challenges of develop and engage multiple Generations


Having multiple generations working in a same organization will significantly increase over the next four years; this will create different challenges and opportunities that require different HR approaches, as addressed by LHH Brazil’s Talent Development Director, Silvana Mello.

In June 2016, we published a survey earmarked for HR professionals of large multinational organizations, showing that we have three generations working in companies: Generations X and Y (Millennials), as majority, and baby boomers, in lesser quantity. And more: the study reveals that baby boomers are being managed by younger people and that teams are composed of various generations where age has no relationship with hierarchical position.

The question that surfaces when looking at this scenario is: is it necessary to consider different strategies for developing each generation, regardless of an employee’s position within the organizational structure?

It is very common today for companies to develop action plans in the people management area, with a focus on job position groups – such as high potentials, emerging leaders and other related programs. But will this continue making sense with three generations interacting, or even four or five generations working together, as Jeanne Meister’s book, The 2020 Workplace, foresees happening in less than five years? (Factors such as increase in the average life-expectancy of men and women worldwide and the change in profile of those considered “elderly” contribute to this happening.)

Such programs may no longer make sense, firstly on account of changes underway in the planet. For example, according to management innovation specialists Gary Hamel, the underlying principles that govern the web today, such as transparency, collaboration job-position equality, are going to invade the corporate universe soon. According to him, the idea of a hierarchy that empowers some in detriment of others will be totally banned.

Another relevant change is that social media carries elements of transformation for society as a whole, in terms of knowledge, information and interactivity. According to studies at UC Berkeley, the information produced worldwide doubles every two years, in some segments in just six months. Websites like “Glassdoor” and “Rate my Professor” already materialize interactivity around information, connecting all ends in the corporate environment – partners, customers, companies and employees.

With specific regards to Generation Y, the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey points out a severe reality, especially in emerging markets: two out of every three Millennials plan to leave their job by 2020. Also according to the survey, Millennialsplace personal values and sense of purpose above organizational profit. You may take a while to believe this is true, but it is: the sense and meaning of work are truly fundamental for Generation Y. This makes life and career plans, direct and honest feedback, mentoring and coaching become tools even more necessary for working with new generations of leaders, among other things.

The next generation, “Z”, might be even more challenging. It is called the Silent Generation, given the fact that its members are always wearing earphones, don’t listen much and speak even less – it is a generation that tends towards egocentrism. They had to adapt to working mothers, living with stepfathers and stepmothers and, many times, absence of authority figures. It is a generation where the on and offline worlds are almost the same thing, causing virtual contact to overshadow the real world. In the vision of most Gen. Z representatives, success must come quickly and career steps are built based on the short-term.

Therefore, the challenge just gets bigger. So I repeat the question: is it necessary to think about different strategies for developing each generation, regardless of an employee’s position within the organizational structure?

My answer is yes. Transformations in the way we develop, engage and lead generations are the main highpoints of this era we have entered. Understanding and developing people no longer is sufficient; we need to speak their language, especially that of newer generations. This means connecting with each one in a genuine manner, giving up on old ways of doing things (from programs directed at groups of job positions to formalities and reverences) and creating experiences of value for all generations.

You, as team leader or HR professional, should be thinking about this.

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