For our second blog I am going to stay with the theme of dignity and respect, but perhaps broaden the debate. Employees live an organisations culture, they are the real test of the leadership message and aspiration of mission statements and organisational values. In high pressure arenas of business or public service, embedding a strong positive culture and fully understanding the employee experience must be prioritised, to ensure organisations have a resilient, future proofed workforce.
Many organisations will now have five generations of staff in their workforce. This scenario is not without its challenges but also brings rich diversity of skills and with it opportunity. We frequently discuss inclusion and diversity within our workforce, but rarely is this debate about generational difference. As with any difference, labels, judgement and prejudice can emerge because our different generations have different approaches to work and communication.
Our starting point must be to fully understand the skills and capabilities we need within our workforce and build from there to future proof our workforces. The days of progression being based on age and whose turn it is rather than ability, need absolutely to be consigned to the past. Talent and learning is not just about the organisational elders passing down their experience and knowledge in a traditional way, talent hierarchies need consigned to the HR history books. Leadership for example happens at every level of an organisation. Yet experience has a value. The Office of National Statistics has reported a growing number of people in their 80’s taking employment in predominately part time posts. This raises the question of how to maximise the different talents and skills that different generations bring to organisations.
Younger generations need to influence the design and structure of our services, and help build new skills within the workforce, even onto a baby boomer like me! Those of you who know me, know I like to tell a story. Are you sitting comfortably, yes, welI I will begin. This is about the development of the website you are now on. In December I was in my local, small business computer shop, getting help with an IT issue. Whilst there, I asked if they did web design, they didn't, but they gave me the contact details for another local business which focused on web design. It turned out that this design business was run by an entrepreneurial 16 year old, who was saving money to go to University, in my day we got a paper round and a Saturday job! I actually worked for ICI as a schoolboy as a petrol pump attendant. How times change. I learned, and am still learning, a great deal from this talented young person, not least about the need to nurture drive and enthuse all generations to yield success, and not harbour outdated prejudices about people in different age groups. I am a bit of an IT Neanderthal . I lack IT skills beyond the pretty basic. Writing a blog is a new experience for me...old dog, new tricks! I actually now believe the mantra about lifelong learning.
We need to strive to have a workforce which reflects our society, and value all contributions, something we still haven't managed to achieve. Generational diversity just adds another layer to that ambition. Life is full of surprises. Last year I had the good fortune to be involved in Project Search in NHS Lothian. This is a global project designed to help young people with a disability into employment. The interns of the class of 2015/16 invited me to a presentation of the work they were doing at the Western General Hospital. I was completely overwhelmed by the quality of their work and dedication. I arranged for them to present their work to the Staff Governance Committee of Lothian Health Board. Something after nearly 40 years of experience I would have been nervous about myself. They were superb. The Chairman of the Committee commented that it was the best presentation he had ever seen and I had to agree with him. It was a matter of immense pride when all of the young people who completed the programme gained employment in the NHS. Our future is brighter with them to help us when we need the NHS. Here I am straying into territory about social exclusion and recruitment rather than what different generations can bring to employment. In a future blog, I plan to say l say something about breaking the links between poverty and ill health by using employment to benefit society and the barriers we need to overcome in relation to attitudes to people less fortunate than ourselves. But for now, thanks for reading this. If you have a view about what is said here please let us know, positive or negative.
Very best wishes for a prosperous 2017