Charmaine Hammond is an expert in building respectful and resilient workplaces. Her work spans from the energy sector, government, non-profits, police and everything in between. By engaging people, she transforms workplaces through their people issues. We sat down to discuss overcoming people issues around multi-generational offices and how to thrive with several generations of employees.
TEC Canada: When managing a multi-generational workplace, what are successful offices doing that the others aren’t?
Charmaine Hammond: Companies that succeed are strict in their value statements and truly understand the culture of their organization. When you have this in place, you can hire and promote the right people and work towards your organizational purpose. These organizations are not focusing on labels, they are ensuring they have capable people to do the job.
Additionally, organization’s that get to know the employee outside the job description will better succeed. I had a recent conversation with a manager who expressed that after doing one-to-ones, he discovered one of his employees was a gifted artist and this led to him assisting with the newsletter on the graphics side. So as a leader, your role should be about bringing forth your employees’ strengths to achieve your organizational purpose.
TC: How to get past workplace stereotypes regarding age?
CH: When you group people based on the year they’re born, it’s unlikely that you can get to know the true individual. You must foster a culture of respect that focuses on skill and contributions rather than generalizations. This goes back to my first point, when you have a strong mission and culture, people are unlikely to talk in terms of labels, they will talk in terms of people.
Two specific measures to bring people together are having diversity in your hiring process and diversity in project committees. A diverse hiring process is essential for creating a culture of respect. In terms of project committees, if you can bring together people from all ages and working styles, bringing forth their perspectives and experiences, you have an opportunity to create extraordinary work.
TC: Can you explain the significance or real value a multi-generational office provides?
CH: When I was a mediator, generally people sought mediation to help them overcome disagreement and differences; whether that’s differences in perspectives, values or working styles. However, in these differences there is tons of value as collective perspectives from all walks of life help drive innovation and collaboration. This is why diversity is important in all ways, but specifically in terms of skill set. So, when you have a multi-generational office you need to use that to your favour and bring out the strengths of all individuals.
TC: How do companies create that real value?
CH: I often see employers spending lots of time and energy to train people to be better at their job – specifically in the technical area. However, I don’t see enough time and effort in the essential skills area. I used to call this ‘soft-skills’ however, I changed my wording as communication, collaboration and conflict-resolution are essential skills for any workplace. If you can bring your multi-generational office together through each individual’s strengths and continuously develop their essential skills, you can work towards your organizational purpose.
TC: With workers at different stages in their careers, how do you make them feel valued, while still upholding company values?
CH: Some organizations work really hard to make too many exceptions and then are not able to uphold these decisions. However, there has to be parameters of what a company can and cannot do. People have different motivators, so as an organization, if you are true to your policies, mission statement and procedures, you’ll have the right people coming to you and you better can meet their needs.
Charmaine Hammond, founder of Hammond International Inc., specializes in workplace conflict, leadership and communication development, employee resiliency and building healthy inspired teams. She leads numerous seminars and training sessions aimed at bettering the overall dynamics of the workplace beginning with their people. Additionally, Charmaine offers consultation in policy, procedures, training and team charters to resolve conflict in a respectful way.