Age: 21. 45. 23. 52. 58. 34. 28. 63. 43. 25. Sound familiar? Ten team members. Four different generations. Presumably, one common purpose in your organization. If you had to categorize (you don’t), you’d say that you’ve still got some of your Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and now Gen Z populating your staff – each products of different eras, characterized by purportedly conflicting priorities. Much has been explored about customized employee engagement strategies in today’s cross-generational workforce, prompting bestselling books like “What Millennials Want from Work” or a plethora of articles like “How Generation Z Will Impact Your Workplace” … and yet, we are not just our ages. Look no further than that dedicated Gen Z workhorse or that tech-savvy Boomer. Yes, the categories are nice. They’re orderly. They may even make us feel like we’ve got some sense of control over how to ‘deal’ with each group. But we know that the best leaders do not merely deal with their employees, they connect with them. They lead people, not categories. And if people are not their ages, what are they?
What we are is our individual stories. What we are is our values. We’ve all got them – consciously or unconsciously. Our values inform our behaviours and it is in the misalignment of those personal and organizational values where employee engagement wanes. Want to engage an employee (of any generation)? Invite conversations about values. Get to the core of things in a three-step cycle:
In thriving organizational cultures, personal and professional growth are inextricably linked. Leaders need to intentionally build in time for the personal growth of their employees – at any age. This requires space for individual reflection on the most fundamental of questions: Who am I? What past experiences do I have that will impact how I show up at work? To put it simply: What do I value and why? Have your employees utilize one of the tools at the Barrett Values Centre(BVC) to begin an exploration of these questions. For a deeper dive, consider one of ComMundiGroup’s workshops tailored to meet your organization’s unique needs.
Our personal stories are values-laden. Values-driven leaders intentionally build in opportunities for employees to share what matters most to them and to learn about who their teammates are (and why), not just about what they do.This may mean curating experiences for real connection outside of the office and offering regular opportunities for what Tor Eneroth, Director of Cultural Transformation at BVC, calls “Circle Time” in your organization. In addition to the typical, task-oriented “Triangle Time” used to conduct everyday business, leaders can schedule time for employees to reengage in relationship-building dialogue around values. Save space for those beautifully messy discussions that are born out of values conflicts. Encourage employees to hash out common definitions of shared values based on what experiences they’ve lived to date. “Integrity means ‘this’ to me, but what about you?” is the start of a values conversation that will bridge worlds and ultimately increase efficiency in your organization. Finally, guide your team to a place where the dialogue can shift from ‘Who am I?’ to ‘Who are we, together?’ Work with your team to establish a set of shared core values that can serve as the touchstone for daily behaviours in your organization.
- Continuously Learn
Keep the values conversations going between all generations. This rich dialogue is the lifeblood of your thriving organization and it powers innovation at all levels. Revisit hot topics to reassess personal and team values for their alignment with your organization’s purpose. Engage new employees in these same conversations and design an onboarding process intended to honour the personal values and behaviours they bring to the table, while also introducing the established core values of the organization. Integrate the fresh perspectives of your youngest employees in further vision-casting with your more experienced executive leadership team. Build robust mentorship and reverse-mentorship programs rooted in intentional values conversations. It is in these dialogical spaces that we learn not to fear, but rather embrace our differences.
We know values are the best connector in organizations because they know no bounds or age. At its core, this is what ComMundiGroup is about – helping create connected, values-driven organizations to unlock human potential (at any age). We invite you to reach out to us for values-driven strategies to reflect, connect, and continuously learn with the cross-generational teams in your organization.
Lauren Curry has 10+ years of experience as an educator in the public sector, specializing in student leadership, human-centered learning design, and community engagement. She has a B. Ed from the University of Alberta and holds a Graduate Certificate in Values-Based Leadership from Royal Roads University. Lauren currently practices in the field of student leadership development, working to bridge generations and sectors to drive social innovation.