Monday, April 8, 2013

Multigenerational Leadership: One Size Does Not Fit All

Four insightful panelists gathered around the table at the front of the room, sharing their views on a relevant issue: How can a business operate effectively when its workforce has employees from different generations?  Since Gordon is fortunate to be one of the only Christian colleges outside of Boston our thrust to feature more Boston-based events paved the way for the recent “Organizational Success Through Multigenerational Teams” event in the heart of Boston's business and e-commerce neighborhood. The event, sponsored by Gordon's Career Services and Advisory Board, brought professionals and students to the Boston Private Bank & Trust Company’s conference rooms to hear how organizations thrive despite different generational perspectives. The four panelists,—Dave Caruso, founding chairman and managing director of Coastal Capital Group; Pilar Pueyo, senior vice president and director of human resources at Boston Private Bank & Trust; Mary Mariano, vice president of the finance division, employee development and inclusion for State Street Corporation; and Jessie Saintcyr, deputy treasurer and human resources director and employment counsel, at the Office of the Treasury for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts—offered unique views on the subject from their vantage points in institutions of quite different sizes.
Four generations make up today’s workforce and each contributes a unique element to the business dynamic. Although employees are not bound by the stereotypes of their generation, there are some basic characteristics of each generation that can impact workplace dynamics. The traditionalists, the oldest generation, think that gain only comes with sacrifice and are less comfortable with change. The baby boomers, between ages 49 and 64, are optimistic and derive self-esteem from what they do. Members of Generation X distrust national institutions, are comfortable with change and emphasize balance in life. Finally, Generation Y, the youngest generation, expect instant gratification, are tech-savvy and measure their work by the results, not the process. So how can an administrator manage effectively when one generation thrives on Twitter but another hardly understands it? How can a manager oversee employee conduct when each generation feels differently about workplace formality?
The fundamental challenge, according to panelist Dave Caruso, is “to figure out how to craft a message so that everyone can understand to communicate in ways that connect with all the generations.” Caruso has experience speaking to different audiences—to his clients, employees and to his listeners as the financial editor on Boston’s WBZ radio. He believes “communication is the most important aspect of effective management.”  

Jessie Saintcyr believes the recipe for multigenerational well-being starts with sensitivity and respecting the differences between generations. “A simple awareness of other perspectives builds a foundation for an inclusive and adaptive workforce,” she said.

To the benefit of the Gordon students in attendance, the conversation led to suggestions for new grads entering the workplace. From crafting an effective resume to interview prep, the panel emphasized the importance of maintaining a level of formality in the workplace. Mary Mariano screens hundreds of resumes for different positions for State Street Corporation and highlighted the importance for new graduates to find out in advance all they can about a potential employer, in preparation for an interview. "I have stopped interviews when a response to my inquiry about our company's work produces a blank stare."

The presence of a multigenerational workplace can prove difficult at times, but if managed effectively can bring out the best in each generation. Older staff members tend to be more patient and temperate, while the younger generations tends to be tech-savvy and fast-acting. Each generation has its strengths and a workplace that brings the best out of each generation will be an enjoyable place for employees to thrive.

Economics and history double major Rusty Hawkins ’13, reflected after the event that “it was interesting to hear how so much success in the workplace comes from being a sensitive and understanding co-worker.”

State Street's Senior VP Pilar Pueyo described the event as “an opportunity to reflect on a relevant topic that plays out on the individual level. There are differences between cultures and genders, and we need to find an intersection to operate our companies effectively.”

Blogger: Mac Gostow ’13. Mac is a communication arts major from California and a student writer in the Office of College Communications at Gordon College. With a double minor in business administration and sociology, Mac has interned for CBS News in New York City, is a founder of ScotRadio, performs with the Sweaty Tooth Madmen improv troupe, and served as a show host for KURadyo in Istanbul, Turkey.

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