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10 Values that Transcend Generations

As I mentioned previously, the intermixing of four generations in the workplace (Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Boomers), is becoming a prevalent topic. Talent throughout the nonprofit and for-profit sectors of all industries are finding themselves in uncharted territory, unsure of how to get through to seemingly drastically different generations.

While the generational divide is a very real issue leaders must address, professionals in our workplaces are more alike than they may think. I have found there’s a set of core values that transcends the different generations, and building upon them creates a healthier, happier, and more successful work culture.

  1. Acceptance - Talent wants to be seen, heard and listened to and this greatly engenders trust. As DEI becomes a forefront value for many employees, organizations need to invest in creating an inclusive workplace. Some best practices to start with are practicing an inclusive recruitment process, facilitating diversity training for all employees, and creating spaces for talent to surface what is most on their minds and/or holding them back at work.

  2. Authenticity - Talent wants to be respected and honored for individuality. To encourage authenticity in the workplace, ask talent to teach a skill and to share stories that others will learn from and be inspired by. Conduct a workshop on the teams’ strengths and learning styles and encourage team members to lean into this when working together for the most optimal results.

  3. Curiosity - Talent responds positively to others who seek to better understand their POV by asking questions that show curiosity and interest. This, in turn, makes them more open to others’ opinions and perspectives. Encouraging open communication allows talent to ask questions that will widen their perspectives and create more mutual understanding.

  4. Positive feedback - Talent enjoys being noticed for actions they take, ideas they have, and positive changes they’ve made. Positive feedback brings emotions of happiness and belonging which are contagious and healthy for the organizational culture. It is best for leaders to congratulate their employees on their successes, as well as behavioral changes they have made to past feedback.

  5. Permission - When it comes to constructive feedback, people like to be given a choice about whether or not they'd like to receive it. For some, it may be intimidating to receive feedback in front of an audience and they may prefer a written format. While feedback is an important aspect of any business, it should be given in a way that all parties are comfortable with. Asking for permission expresses important respect in the workplace.

  6. Seen as a whole person - Talent wants others to show interest in them as people, not just for the professional roles they play. Ask open-ended questions to see how they are doing, or remember what a colleague said, and ask them about it the days following, or even a week later. Establishing personal relationships based on the whole of a person creates a much more bonded and compassionate team.

  7. Opportunity to offer our strengths and talents - People love the opportunity to utilize their strengths, abilities, and talents in new ways that contribute to the mission and work of the organization. It is exciting and challenging, and one feels honored to be selected to do so. The more leaders are mindful of connecting talent with projects that match their strengths and interests, the better. When feeling valued, talent almost always becomes more comfortable reaching to ask for additional opportunities where they can shine.

  8. Growth - In today’s society, talent of all backgrounds love to grow. Growth is often more important than salary and many contemporary studies have documented this. It is an important key to retaining excellent staff members. Growth is creative, stimulating, and life-affirming. It transcends age, and many opportunities can have a very minimal financial cost. Organizations can encourage growth by giving increasingly challenging assignments, providing more supervisory responsibilities, offering curated mentoring opportunities, and much more.

  9. Public recognition - Talent like to be recognized by others whom they respect for their positive contributions and actions. Talent and leaders alike can learn to celebrate one another privately, in front of the team, or even with external clients. This skill goes a long way in creating an uplifting culture in which others will often clamor to be part of.

  10. Purpose - For most people who choose to work in purpose-driven positions, it is not a choice but a mandate. People are driven by their guiding values and want the constant opportunity to contribute to a vision and mission larger than themselves. This is especially important in the nonprofit sector. May all of us invest wisely in our talent who are passionately committed to the work of our organizations and produce excellent results together, day in and day out.

Moving Forward- Leaning Into Core Values

An organization that enables these values to drive it will find greater success. When we understand these basic components, it becomes much easier to communicate, even with a generationally divided workforce. Though our learning or communication styles may differ for generational reasons or others, we all want to feel that we belong and are appreciated.

These values require a keen sense of emotional intelligence across the organization. Once individuals are socially aware, positive change is much more possible to achieve. A wonderful strategy for harnessing these values is through well-designed, meaningful, and interactive retreats for talent and teams of all levels. I regularly lead organizational retreats, taking a personalized approach to build on their strengths and strengthen their challenges. All organizations are unique and yet taking the time to truly listen and open ourselves up to one, even for half a day, can lead to palpable and important change. Almost every client I’ve worked with left our retreat with a greater understanding, new skills, and an exciting refreshed perspective.

For those who are struggling with a generationally divided workplace, I urge you to have the courage to let change in. I can almost promise that you will be thrilled with the results.

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