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Via Forbes : Mastering Multigenerational Communication In The Workplace

The topic of generational diversity has launched a tsunami of observation, documentation, investigation, speculation and research in the last 20 years. The emergence of digital media technology has made it possible to disseminate the differences between generational behavioral characteristics in panoramic detail. However, knowledge alone will not meld the schisms that exist between one generation to another. It is possible this scrutiny has even fueled some subtle fires of prejudice between generational members.

Spherexx has five generations working side by side right now, and we are working constantly to present the best communication workflow to optimize performance across generational barriers.

How many times have we heard or said something like, “That’s a millennial for you!” to a perplexed baby boomer employer when a prospective employee arrives wearing shorts and flip-flops to an interview? Putting aside preconceptions takes concentrated effort after being exposed to a barrage of misinformation or partial inundation of facts.

Studying measurable facts is a good beginning for laying the groundwork to adopt better multigeneration communication within your corporate culture and daily workflows.

Know The Facts

For the purpose of this study, we are using Pew Research Center’s age definition of generations:

Millennials represent the largest workforce group as of 2015. The research also reports that the workforce of Americans age 55 and over is in a steady upward trend, projected at 24.3% in 2020. The aging baby boomers and Gen Xers are not going gentle into that good night, which lays a foundation of a dynamic workplace environment soon to be populated by five generations.

This chart shows the historical and projected workforce by age from 2016 to 2026, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Pew Research. The data labels indicate the generations represented.

By 2026, millennials will make up the majority of the workforce, yet one-quarter of the workforce will still be represented by Gen Xers plus boomers, who are projected at 13 million in 2024. These statistics have spurred forward-thinking leaders to research how generations are alike and different, with the goal of maintaining peace and high productivity in their companies.

We believe we have had some successes in communicating across generations by first informing our leaders and mentors about the differences between the generational characteristics. Then, we practice those preferred communication methodologies while balancing a respect for the differences in each generation, along with individual learning styles of the employee.

A research survey with 18,000 participants from 19 countries discovered leadership motivational employment factors for generations X, Y and Z. This study is very enlightening for establishing motivational communications between the current and emerging generations.

This research tells us that all are motivated by money, a desire for leadership and flexibility, and they all somewhat feel the need to fit in. Members of Gen X, Y and Z crave a sense of leadership, but none more than Gen Y (77%). But it’s Gen Z’s choices that indicate a high trend in entrepreneurial endeavors. Gen X and Y desire to mentor others, Gen Y and Z are looking forward to more virtual reality tools in the workplace, and all rate current technology in the workplace as lacking.

A Good Beginning

Consider what current forms of your corporate communications support these shared motivations. How can you promote a greater sense of leadership, create a more flexible working environment, reduce stress, improve technology and establish a mentorship program?

We launched Spherexx in 2000 with flexible working hours, which is a big attraction to all our staff members — we only require that deadlines are met and that everyone operates within established, written policies. Our organization is flat, but we have long tenured employees that are influencers that work to nurture others. We have found that setting aside times to have fun together with bi-monthly updates on what each division has accomplished naturally improves communication, as does nurturing team support around charity activities and socializing events.

Sue Whitener, Human Resources Consultant, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, sums up the best point for beginning to better generational communication: “First of all, create an environment of mutual respect and uphold the directive. Help employees to better understand each other’s differences, recognize different communication preferences and how to best support your organization. It is always important to ask employees what their desired method of communication is and fit your initiatives into your findings. Study the characteristics of generational behavior and remember that cusp-born members will often share characteristics of both generations. Never forget that each person is an individual and must be treated accordingly.”

As a leader in your working environment, first examine what prejudice may lurk in your own perspective and work through it for the better good. Otherwise, it will ultimately manifest and it will become permissible, if not preferential, to those who follow you either by position or influence. Begin with the Golden Rule.

Via South China Morning Post : Mindset Matters: From Cultural Mindset to Multicultural Competence

With the increase in global connectivity, the ability to work and communicate effectively with people from diverse cultural backgrounds is seen as an important asset. What factors might help to build this asset?

Imagine that you need to build a project team to work on integrating artificial intelligence with business analytics. Suppose that you have all the resources that you need to attract the brightest minds from around the world to join your team. What might affect the overall effectiveness of this team? Presumably, everyone on the team would have the technical knowledge and competencies to perform and contribute as required. However, having the knowledge and competencies does not necessarily mean that individual team members would be able and willing to communicate effectively. What might influence work and communication effectiveness in the face of diversity? Research over the past decade has suggested that multicultural competence (sometimes known as cultural intelligence) is an important quality in enhancing effectiveness in a culturally diverse workforce.

What is multicultural competence? Why is it important?

Multicultural competence refers to the ability to adapt and function efficiently in a culturally diverse setting. It involves (a) having the intrinsic interest to acquire different cultural knowledge; (b) possessing knowledge about other cultures; (c) being aware of one’s own cultural values and beliefs, and their potential assumptions and biases; and (d) being able to respond in a culturally appropriate manner. In short, it encompasses motivation, knowledge, awareness, and skills.

Multicultural competence can influence important outcomes across different work domains. For example, it affects the effectiveness of expatriates and how well they adjust in international assignments. It influences the performance of culturally diverse teams and the success of cross-cultural negotiations. It also predicts the performance of salespersons who serve diverse customers. Interestingly, in the domain of health service provision, particularly mental health, it can influence the diagnostic accuracy of clinicians and their service delivery because cultural factors influence how clinical symptoms are experienced, detected, understood, and managed.

What might contribute to multicultural competence?

Multicultural competence is a learnable attribute. Therefore, business organizations and educational institutes have invested a significant amount of resources in training and education. Above all, they recognize that international experience and exposure to foreign cultures are important means in enhancing multicultural competence. However, individuals differ in their receptiveness towards cultural training and international experiences. Some might benefit from these experiences and training and improve their level of multicultural competence over time. Others might resist and react against it. Why would people react and respond differently? Our recent research revealed that “cultural mindset” matters.

Our work on “cultural mindset” grew out of the broader literature on “growth mindset”. It has shown that individuals’ beliefs about their ability can create a social reality for themselves, which then leads them to see and experience what they have expected. Research on growth mindset reveals that whereas some people believe that their ability is changeable, others believe it is fixed. Importantly, when facing challenges, people in the former group tend to persist more in the search for solutions than those in the latter group. They also tend to value opportunities to learn and to improve themselves. Eventually, their beliefs turn into a reality. They show improvement in their actual ability, outperforming those with a fixed mindset.

Our research on cultural mindset showed that a similar process influences the development of multicultural competence. In a longitudinal study, we found that sojourners who believe in changeable cultural attributes are more at ease in intercultural environments than those with a fixed cultural mindset. They experience less anxiety when interacting with people from another culture. They are also less inclined to anticipate social rejections, and are better adjusted in the host countries. These positive experiences then foster the development of multicultural competence.

In a series of lab studies, we also found that people holding malleable cultural beliefs are more able to build a trusting relationship with their foreign partners. This trust led to more cooperative behavior and better outcomes in negotiations. In short, our mindsets create a self-fulfilling cycle in which we live. Mindset matters. We do not only see what we believe, but we also become what we believe.

What can be done then?

Individuals are often selected for international exchanges, foreign assignments, or multicultural teamwork based on their technical competence. For some, they can leverage these opportunities to establish trusting relationships, expend their networks, and broaden their knowledge base. For others, such experiences can turn out to be aversive.

Arguably, there could be a self-selection process in which people with a malleable cultural mindset feel more comfortable with intercultural exchanges and, therefore, are more likely to take up the challenge and flourish. In contrast, people with a fixed cultural mindset tend to shy away from intercultural encounters in the first place; however, some might be motivated to take up these international opportunities because of their perceived instrumental value. In the increasingly diverse workplace, individuals should be mindful of the impact of their cultural mindset in shaping the development of their multicultural competence. Managers and educators should also consider ways to provide support and training.

Traditional cross-cultural training programs focus on enhancing multicultural competence by providing culture-specific knowledge. They often highlight differences in cultural practices and values, but an emphasis on differences may inadvertently reinforce a fixed cultural mindset. So, it is important for cross-cultural training program to go beyond emphasizing cultural differences. It would likely be more effective in promoting positive intercultural exchanges if it fosters an awareness of how cultural mindset can lead into a self-fulfilling cycle of competence, or incompetence.

What is “Multicultural Competence”?

– Intrinsic interest to acquire cultural knowledge
– Knowledge about other cultures
– Awareness of different cultural values and beliefs, and their potential biases
– Skill to respond in a culturally appropriate manner

Via Human Resources Director : Does technology help or hinder workplace relationships?

It goes without saying that technology has revolutionised both the way we work and the way we communicate forever – but is it really a change for the better?

Leadership and people management specialist Karen Gately said digital may have made communicating across teams a little easier, but it also has the potential to undermine workplace culture.

“I think technology is one of the biggest obstacles to building healthy relationships,” Gately told HRD.

“People become keyboard warriors and we just sit at our desks and have arguments and try and resolve problems through technology.”

Gately said technology gives many employees a sense of detachment which means they’re often less rational when communicating online.

“People will often say things that they otherwise wouldn’t and they’ll say things in ways that they might not choose to say them if they were actually sitting in front of the person having the interaction,” she said.

“The other reality with our digital world is that everything moves really quickly and we can fail to stop and really appreciate certain moments or to bring people together to have a meaningful connection – whether it be through celebrating successes or learning as a team. If we try to do things by digital means too much, we miss the opportunity to foster those relationships and learn from our experiences.”

Of course, Gately doesn’t for a moment suggest abandoning digital communication – it’s integral to the success of many teams, particularly those which are geographically dispersed. But she does say HR can take measures to stop it sabotaging company culture.

“Communication is fundamental to an organisation’s ability to thrive and the quality of communication is fundamental so we need to enable organisations to be more effective in the way they communicate,” said Gately.

“A big part of that is the face-to-face interaction and it’s the relationship-building so HR needs to play a role in helping organisations to get better at the way they not only share information but the way they explore ideas, the way the make decisions and the way they build relationships.

Gately added that leaders need to think beyond just communication in terms of the staff newsletter or updates around appointments or new client wins – instead they need to think about communication as a core capability that links the potential of the business to performance.

Via LiveMint : Learn to communicate at all levels or perish

Proficiency in a language doesn’t always determine how good a communicator you are

For too long, communication has been looked at as a “soft skill” that relies on flourish and flair. It’s time we punctured that connotation. Communicating well is hard.

Sure, logical thinking and multiple perspectives lead to tangible action for ideas to move and solutions to be implemented. But any chance of success for a solution begins with getting colleagues, managers and clients to buy into and align with your solution. This is tough and only possible if you engage people in a constructive and inspiring way.

This is why communication plays a crucial, indispensable role because the best thinking is no good if it can’t be absorbed by others.

Proficiency in a language doesn’t always determine how good a communicator you are. Effective communication—especially in the workplace—is about being able to convey your thoughts lucidly so that the people being addressed immediately get what is being said. In fact, some of the best communicators we know don’t speak good English.

The recipe for great communication is similar to what we said in the context of problem solving. To solve a problem, you need to logically structure issues. It’s the same with words and thoughts.

We are poor communicators because we don’t reason, debate and question enough. To communicate and reason better, you need to read. Then, you need to reason and think through better. Inculcating reading, writing, and, through this, reasoning as a habit is the only way to get at this.

Take a unit of work, whether it is problem solving or execution. You begin by reading, hearing or watching something or someone. This helps you comprehend the situation. You apply your analysis and judgement to this understanding, and reason through to a certain decision or outcome. To get this communicated or implemented, you now need to write, speak or present, and the reading-writing-reasoning (the 3 Rs) communication loop begins again.

Along with structuring the content, understanding your audience is the biggest aspect of communication that people miss out on. Connecting with different groups, and different kinds of people, is very important. This goes beyond just communicating. It’s the difference between how you would talk to your grandmother, and how you would talk to a college friend.

Taking the time out to understand the key motivation, or set the objective, for a conversation helps establish a connect, as does recognizing which modes of communication people prefer, what response times they expect and how formal/informal they are in their communication styles.

Finally, as with reading, learn to listen. People think taking up airtime is the core of communication. They must speak and be heard. But the best communicators are great listeners. Listening is actually a form of reading. Spend time not just hearing, but actively listening.

An important impact of communication is its ability to inspire and motivate. It’s only through communication that you show your leadership, or experience somebody’s leadership. The way people perceive you is built conversation by conversation, LinkedIn post by LinkedIn post and email by email. Or, speech by speech, when it comes to political leaders and opinion makers.

At our workplaces, we experience people’s leadership in the way they conduct a meeting, persuade people in a debate, carry out an awkward conversation, resolve a conflict or address their teams. Often, it’s not just what they say, it’s how they say it. The words they stress, the tone, or even how often they communicate become data points we gather subconsciously. It influences how we look at them. Others are watching you the same way.

Take charge of your communications imprint. Begin by auditing yourself. Get help from a friend, peer or family member whose communication abilities you admire. Use it to lay down a road map for improvement.

It could be the most important investment you make for your career.

Via The National : Workplace doctor: How to handle personal relationships in a professional environment

Managers have to be clear about job expectations and consequences if performance is negatively impacted for any reason.

I am the manager of a large team of salespeople at a major outlet in Dubai. Recently, I have become aware of a relationship between two members that seems to be impacting their work. While I do not want to ban them from having a relationship – they have until recently both been exemplary members of staff. How do I resolve this delicate issue?

JT, Dubai

Although personal relationships may be viewed differently by different people, generations, religions and cultures, consideration should be given to what is seen to be both respectful and lawful of the local culture and religion where one resides.

Internationally, it is estimated that nearly 40 per cent of people have dated a co-worker and that up to one third of these work relationships have resulted in marriage. Alarming statistics for some, and given that the line between professional and personal lives are becoming thinner, maybe not that surprising for others. Given that we spend, on average, one third of our lives at work whilst working longer hours than ever before, it may be understandable that work is increasingly becoming the primary social environment that many find themselves in.

Traditionally, relationships at work have been frowned upon for various reasons. Many take the view that the workplace is a professional environment where it is important to maintain professionalism at all times. This is particularly relevant to work relationships, as they can be a real distraction not only for the parties involved, but also for their co-workers. Other than potentially affecting productivity, work relationships can cause additional strain, embarrassment and perceptions of favouritism or discrimination.

Depending on who is involved, workplace relationships can change the dynamics of an entire organisation. At the very least, they tend to generate excessive gossip and can complicate important collaboration and trust, necessary for effective teams and cross functional relations. It can also affect decision making, where the involved parties are likely to put each other’s needs before that of the company. Furthermore, work relationships are not limited to co-workers and can impact relations with vendors, competitors or other external stakeholders.

From a different perspective, experts have more recently found that workplace friendships are good for employees and as such, for organisations. This is especially true for Generation Y, who value working with like-minded people that they get on well with. Friendships at work can increase productivity and reduce employee turnover.

According to a 2013 survey in Australia, good relationships with co-workers were more motivating for people to stay in their current job (67 per cent) compared to job satisfaction (63 per cent) and surprisingly, their salary (46 per cent). A workplace is a community, and a closeness amongst staff members can be a competitive advantage for an organisation.

Although, personal relationships are more complicated, they can be viewed in much the same way. Rather than resisting the phenomena, employers are best placed to have a clear policy that governs personal relationships at work. The focus should be on creating a positive work environment for all. Employees must not allow a personal relationship to influence their conduct at work.

Be clear about job expectations and consequences if performance is negatively impacted for any reason. It is also best to have a rule that prohibits an employee from supervising a person they are in a relationship with. Include a requirement to disclose any relationship that may give rise to a conflict of interest.

How may you handle this situation going forward? As you and others have noticed behavioural changes, it is time to address the situation with these individuals. You mention that they have both been exemplary members of staff until recently, so appeal to their professionalism at work.

Communicate your concerns that their personal actions are causing professional issues. Specify that personal lives should be conducted outside of the workplace, and that romantic gestures are not appropriate at work. Help them to establish some boundaries – for instance, not to spend too much time on their own, agreeing not to use terms of endearment, or be seen to make physical contact with each other.

Doctor’s Prescription:

Maintain an atmosphere of trust by respecting their right to a private life, whilst ensuring your right to protect the interests of the business and fellow staff members. Residing in the UAE, they also need to be aware of the laws of the country and respectful of the local culture and customs regarding all forms of relationships.