That’s a First
Never before in history have more than four generations worked together at once. In today’s workplaces, up to five generations are working together: Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. Each of these groups have been labeled with stereotypical characteristics used to describe people from “that” generation. These differences have leaders scrambling as they seek to meet the unique needs of their diverse teams. Here is the great news, each of these generations may be more alike than you think.
In the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, researchers Mencl and Lester published work on the level of importance generations placed on 10 workplace values. Out of the 10 values assessed, each generation rated 7 of the 10 values with the same level of importance. These values included: teamwork, flexibility (e.g., flextime, working from home, etc.), work-life balance, a job that challenges me, training and development opportunities, involvement with decision-making, and being financially rewarded. Leaders would do well to honor these values, and in return, the benefits are vast. Organizations with values that align with their employees often have higher levels of employee satisfaction, engagement, teamwork, and achievement of goals. Despite the stereotypical characteristics assigned to each generation, at the end of the day, people want to be valued and have their values honored. The question is, how do we honor the values of our employees? One approach to take is values-based leadership.
Let’s acknowledge for a moment that each generation in the workplace is different; however, we must also admit that people are unique. Although they may have grown up in the same time period, their experiences were vastly different. Our life experiences result in a unique set of values. Values-based leadership is an approach where leaders leverage their values, team members’ values, and the organization’s values to guide decision-making. Below are some ways to become a values-based leader and seek to honor the values of your team members, regardless of what generation they belong to.
- Become aware of your personal values. Leaders must first be mindful of their own values. Values are a weighted system that will inform how you lead, the environment/culture you create, and how team members will be influenced by you. To start becoming aware of your workplace values, take time to reflect. Identify what makes you happy (professionally and personally), when you are most fulfilled, and what is the purpose behind your work. From there, you may find what is most valuable to you.
- Become aware of others’ values. In order to explore whether or not values align, leaders must be aware of what their team members value. Leaders must also understand the core values of their organization. Take some time to speak with your team about what they value. Explore with one another the values of the organization and see where values align. Encourage your team to work through the exercise you utilized to discover your own values. You might be surprised how individuals from the same generation have different values or their values do align. You will only know if you explore.
- Implement values-based leadership. Once leaders know their values and those of their team members, they can leverage them for decision-making. Intentionally considering the values of your team allows you to make informed decisions. If you are mindful of the values that are the guiding force for your leadership, they will not blindly guide you. When making decisions, seek to understand what decisions most closely align with your personal values and the values of your team and organization.
Action Step: Do you or your team need help identifying your values and/or leveraging them for the cause of leadership? We would love to help! Reach out to us at [email protected].