Effectively Managing the Multi-Generational Workforce
CIO Roundtable Discussion
More than 50 CIOs attended the CMI January CIO Roundtable. The group has continued to grow in membership ever since we launched the East Bay CIO Roundtable in 2013. The meeting featured a panel of experts discussing a critically important current challenge for CIOs: “Effectively Managing the Multi-Generational Workforce.” The panelists included deep subject matter experts: Deidre Paknad (CEO, Workboard), Rajeev Behera (CEO, Reflektive), Jennifer Selby Long (Selby Group) and Margaret Graziano (Keen Alignment). The panel was moderated by Tricia Emerson (CEO, Emerson Human Capital).
Conventional thinking today defines the generations that are currently in the workforce as:
|Traditionalists: born before 1945, experienced the Great Depression, World War II and the Korean War.
Baby Boomers: born between 1945 and 1964, experienced suburban sprawl, the explosion of television, the Vietnam Era and Watergate.
Generation X: born between 1964 and 1980, shared Sesame Street, MTV, PC’s, soaring divorce rates and were the first latch-key kids.
Generation Y or Millennials: born after 1980, experienced the development of the digital camera, social media, YouTube, 9/11, Katrina and increased diversity.
The entire CIO group was engaged and the discussion was very rich. This is a topic that is on the minds of virtually every member of our group. The demographics are such that by 2020 – 46% of the workforce will be made up of millennials.
Much of the conversation was directed toward helping the group plan for successful results. To that end the experts drew some themes that define the nature of the millennial workforce. Those three themes are:
- They are Change Ready
- They are Mission Focused
- They are Transparency Biased
While those are themes that characterize broad traits of the blended age-group, one of the biggest challenges is that more than half of the millennials in the workforce aspire to be the most Senior Leader in the organization. The high aspirations are an admirable quality but the reality is that there is only one “most Senior Leader in the organization” and when millennials make up half of the workforce and half of that age group are aspiring to be the “most Senior Leader in the organization,” there is guaranteed to be many individuals whose career arcs will require active coaching and mentorship.
We also learned that, as a group, the millennials crave feedback. It seems that this trait is exactly what CIOs can tap into to keep the new workforce engaged. When feedback is an ongoing conversation rather than a periodic (or rare) event, the millennials will tend to stay engaged and happy. Perhaps most importantly, CIOs will need to have direct conversations with each of their employees to understand how to uniquely tailor the feedback discussions for each. While the millennials will broadly appreciate feedback, each may have a specific mechanism/approach that works for them.
We have made some of the valuable resources that the panelists gave us available for download. Deidre Paknad gave us two eBooks:
Tricia Emerson gave us two fantastic reference sheets:
The University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School, published an interesting paper: “Rethinking Generation Gaps in the Workplace: Focus on Shared Values.” We found this paper to be a wonderful guide as practical advice for CIOs. While it is vital that CIOs understand, recognize, and address the differences in the generations, much can be gained by tapping into the shared values.
Ben Rosen, Ph.D., Professor of Organizational Behavior for the Kenan Flagler Business School conducted a study to view the differences and commonalities of the generations. Rosen reported: “We found that Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials all shared the same top five expectations of their employers. They also agreed in their views of what an ideal leader should look like.”
Rosen’s research found that all three generations expected the following from their employers:
- To work on challenging projects
- Competitive compensation
- Opportunities for advancement, and chances to learn and grow in their jobs
- To be fairly treated
- Work-life balance
All generations agreed that the ideal leader:
- Leads by example
- Is accessible
- Helps others see how their roles contribute to the organization
- Acts as a coach and mentor
- Challenges others and holds others accountable
Successful CIOs will be able to meet these common expectations of all generations while also being able to tailor their feedback methodology and practices to the individual needs of their employees.
Chief Technology Officer