Generational Differences in the Workplace

Generation conflict can cause an organization a lot of money in productivity.  At no other time in history have five generations co-existed in the US. Labor force, Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and the most current Gen2020.  This is due because people are living longer and working longer.  This mixed, multi-generational environment is a new challenge for management and HR teams.  Falling under one generation does not necessarily mean you were born during the years within the range but if you meet the characteristics and values of the generation.

Several of the prevailing issues are the different workforce behaviors, and those who are unfamiliar with collaboration tools but are expected to work in a setting with possibly four other different generations.  Generalizations and stereotypes exist in an attempt to understand trends.  By having your employees understand how work is done differently in different generations, collaboration between groups tends to happen.  Understanding the different needs go both ways.  “Social learning” is a new concept that employees learn from each other.  Management has learned that by pairing up employees from different generations and by providing them the training, they can both teach each other and develop working relationships.

You can learn more about strategies for understanding–and overcoming–generational differences by reading “Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace.”

Reflection on Immunity to Change

Desire and motivation aren’t enough to see change through.  Therefore, it is best to first understand what you seek to change and then determine your desire to fully commit to implementing it.  I understand that change does not happen overnight, it requires serious dedication.  Yet and still, in my experience, I know it is easy to fall off track and lose sight of the goal.  At times I am consciously aware of what I need to do yet I lack motivation to continue to implement the change I started to pursue.  My actions become inconsistent and/or I psyche myself out.  Eventfully, though, I realize I do not have to begin my transformation in a drastic manner, I can revamp my approach and start with baby steps—Kaizen.

This particularly correlates with how I feel about the mannerisms I am trying to change.  For the most part, I consider myself to be a well-rounded individual who understands we all encompass unique differences.  However, in knowing myself, I accept that I am not and will never be perfect.  Thus, I am continually working towards becoming a better person.  I admit that I need to be a better listener, have better control of my emotions, and even become a better delegator.  Conversely, my “one big thing” is control issues.

I was already aware of my areas of weakness, nevertheless, Kegan and Lahey helped put the significance of my weaknesses into a perspective I had never considered.  I was content simply knowing that there were a few things I needed to work on.  I did not want to think about every aspect of my faults—it makes me feel uneasy.  It truly is a slap in the face once you realize you are unconsciously blocking your own path to success.  With that being said, I appreciate the self discoveries that spawned from reading “Immunity to Change.”  Not only am I aware of my faults and consequences they may cause, now I am also aware that I have the ability to create a game plan by using an immunity map to overcome every obstacle blocking my path to success.

Organizational Transparency

Increased transparency is a consequence to the digital age.  A transparent organization shares information purposely beyond the boardroom with both members and nonmembers alike.  Organizational transparency encourages, honors, and engages with the public.  Transparency is the degree to which an organization shares the following with its stakeholder publicly:

  • Leaders are accessible and straightforward.
  • Employees are accessible and can reinforce the public view of the company by providing superb customer service, when appropriate.
  • Ethical behavior, fair treatment, and other values are on full display.
  • It’s culture.  How a company does things is more important than what it does.
  • Successes, failures, victories, and problems are all communicated.  Results of business practices, good and bath are communicated.
  • Business practices are aligned with the business strategy.  Misalignment can results in disaster.

The reasons why certain organizations have productive and lively workplaces go beyond hiring efficient employees and paying competitive wages. Workplace transparency can increase employee happiness, productivity and decrease the turnover rate. The responsibility of introducing transparency into the workplace falls upon the shoulders of management by keeping employees up to date with workplace changes. Communication is key; it can be as simple as carbon copying your employees in your emails.

Thanks to the evolution of social media, transparency is no longer an option.  It is in the organization’s best interest to talk openly and behave ethically.   Some recognized transparent organizations are Wholefoods, La-Z-boy, and PriceSmart.  These organizations model openness and integrity. When organizations announce their motives to the public it allows the public to hold the company accountable.

The Glassdoor provides an inside look at jobs and companies.  It includes salary details, company reviews and interview questions. Before your next shopping trip or when applying for your next job, check out what others are saying about this organization at

Merit Increases Today

This past week I attended a WebEx about merit increase guidelines for my staff for fiscal year 2012.  This is the first time my organization offers such training and I was really taken back to hear that we will be receiving a merit increase this year.  My organization, like many others have not offered their employees a merit increase in a few years, if not longer.  It turns out that most organizations are giving anywhere from two to three and a half percent increase in 2012.  The truth is that what your organization should pay in merit increase depends on many factors.  Some factors include, what is going on in your market, what is the demographic of your workforce, and how your organization differs from the norm.

Just looking at the average in your company in your area is not enough.  Say a sales person in the industry may be at three percent.  Even though you are not a sales company but you have staff in sales, you may consider giving the sales staff a three percent merit increase.  If you do not stay competitive, you may fear losing the sales staff.  Earlier in your career there is a positive correlation between higher pay and each additional years of service.  For example a staff member with one year of experience the difference between one year to two years may be up to a four percent but a staff with 15 years of experience the difference in pay with only one more year of experience may just be one percent.  If your organization is performing better than its competitors, it may warrant an increase higher than the average. Also, the average should be based on what organizations are paying competitively with market.

Organizations should establish a compensation philosophy that builds a compensation plan with relevant, timely market data, supports business objectives, and executes increases based on rewarding what your organization values.  This will help the organization stay ahead of being just the average.  For a 2012 Compensation Best Practices Report, go to

Words That Can Bring You To Your Knees — And 8 Ways To Retake Control Of Your Career

by Pat Palleschi, Ph.D

“Fired,” “right-sized,” “terminated,” “severed,” “we’ve gone in a different direction,” “we’ve changed strategies,” “you get two weeks severance,” “good luck in your next opportunity…”

These are all words that can bring any adult to their knees. And in Los Angeles there are millions of people who have heard them.

Here are the 8 things you need to do to retake control of your career:

  1. Take control of your finances. Put in a safe place (ha!) the equivalent of what you will need to live on for ONE YEAR. Can’t do that? Learn to be cheap. VERY cheap. Take on roommates; take your lunch to work; read a book you’ve borrowed from a friend.
  2. Use every means possible to learn and make yourself more valuable to your current company or the next one. Learn on the job by talking with friends who happen to be experts in a field, go to conferences (volunteer to help, so you don’t have to pay), take online programs, etc.
  3. Grab anything your company has to offer that can teach you new skills. Take on new projects, work on enterprise-wide systems, in-house Facebook pages, kick-ass presentations, etc. Have the people you work with document what you’ve done and write a recommendation for you on Linkedin.
  4. Learn how to use social media to position yourself as an “expert” (see above note on Linkedin).
  5. On your own time (weekends, nights, etc.), learn NEW skills. Then use them to get results in a volunteer activity.
  6. Become invaluable to your current job. Become the expert in sustainability, social media, artificial intelligence, analytics – any skill that your company needs to become a leader in the field.
  7. Lose your ego. If you get fired, take ANY job while you WORK to get another job. Drive a taxi (and write a blog about the weird stories you learn while driving!). Volunteer. Even if you were worth $1 million a year, you must find a way to re-value yourself.
  8. Remember that any job change affects your whole family. Get your whole family involved in this “new adventure” of finding work.

It may sound self-serving for me to say “get a good coach” – but I will say it anyway. Get a CAREER coach who has done job placements. DO NOT spend money on “life coaches” (unless you have extra money and need a life).

No one at your company has the ability or time to watch out for you, your desires and your long-term goals. A company cannot afford to become your family (with some very, very few notable exceptions).

TAKE Control of your career. NO ONE else can do it, except you.

Guest Blogger Pat Palleschi is the President of The Executive Agency. She has devoted the past 25 years to creating HR strategies that help organizations and individuals succeed. As VP of Human Resources Development at Disneyland, she helmed the Disney University, where she and her team made it their mission to attract, develop and retain Disney Cast members who were “pumped to perform.” Before Disney, Pat served as Senior VP of Training for Bank of America. She earned her doctorate at the University of Massachusetts and chaired the Speech Communication Department at Loyola Marymount University.

Don’t Bore Hiring Managers: Make Your Resume Look Like YOU – Interesting!

by Pat Palleschi, PhD
In a recent NY Times article, Bing Gordon, the former Chief Creative Officer at Electronic Arts, said:

“In hiring, I like in-person meetings for chemistry and references for truth… I will always ask about your learning practices, who are your heroes, what do you read. I want to know your hobbies, career, where are you trying to get to… I also read resumes upside down, so I start with personal interests. If somebody doesn’t have believable, interesting interests, they are not going to work in a creative environment… Then, I’ll scan for personal achievements… STRIP OUT ALL THE HISTORY STUFF; JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU ARE PROUD OF AND HOW YOU THINK ABOUT IT…”

I added the emphasis to reinforce the good advice. DO NOT follow any “regular resume format” when you are interviewing with a hiring manager. (Save the dull chronological resume stuff for HR folks and Enterprise-Wide Computing Systems!)

Your resume should look like you. And sometimes, you need a makeover... (photo by kafka4prez via Creative Commons)

Having trouble thinking out of the box? Take a look at the “guerrilla resume” format in Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0 (best $15 you can spend), and use a format that will enable a hiring manager to become interested in how you think and impressed with what you have done.

Use a one-page format (no matter how old or experienced you are). Why so short? The resume should be a teaser for the hiring manager — just enough to let her/him know where to ask you questions. It should feel like “YOU” — a resume should not be anything BUT a reflection of who you are.

Remember the other thing that Bing cited: in an in-person interview, CHEMISTRY is all-important. Any supporting documentation should add to the chemistry, enable the interviewer to see interesting (otherwise hidden) sides to you. And remember to highlight only the best hidden sides… some parts of you should stay hidden (as some politicians are learning the hard way).

Guest Blogger Pat Palleschi is the President of The Executive Agency. She has devoted the past 25 years to creating HR strategies that help organizations and individuals succeed. As VP of Human Resources Development at Disneyland, she helmed the Disney University, where she and her team made it their mission to attract, develop and retain Disney Cast members who were “pumped to perform.” Before Disney, Pat served as Senior VP of Training for Bank of America. She earned her doctorate at the University of Massachusetts and chaired the Speech Communication Department at Loyola Marymount University.

A Few Words to College Grads: It Really is NOT about YOU

by Pat Palleschi, Ph.D.
Okay… let me get some of my own biases out first:

Their caps aren't the only thing up in the air...

1. I believe that unemployment is far higher than the reported figures in the Los Angeles Region. Not true? Then, at the very least, we deserve some transparency about the assumptions that were used to get to the published rate, so we can all be knowledgeable about the real situation.

2. I don’t care what your politics are. I have not heard of a single politician who has paid sufficient attention to JOB CREATION. And, because of the inattention, FEW new jobs have been created. Especially in Los Angeles.

3. The people who are lucky enough to be working are generally unhappy. In the past this would mean that they would be looking for new jobs. BUT, NO! The lucky employed are going to cling to their jobs by their fingernails despite their unhappiness because they know that it is ugly out there in the job market. Employed people are clinging to jobs that have forced them to work more and more hours without a single cent added to their salaries for years.

If my beliefs approach reality, then grads need to consider this advice:

  • Job search is extraordinarily hard now and it is NOT about YOU, your minor flaws, your age, your level of experience — it is all about the time, geography and economy. (This echoes the sentiments of David Brooks in New York Times).
  • Blame is usually not useful — so consider this not “blame” but a cry for help: JOB CREATION needed, Washington!
  • What is important for you to do is to DISREGARD all the old advice (“follow your passion,” “do what you love,” “find work that will provide meaning,” etc.) because that will get in the way of getting you to work. And getting you a place to live. And eating.
  • In this economy, I want to remind all of us that work is in itself a useful and meaningful pursuit, if done well. Doing work well can be a passion and can provide meaning, even if it is working at a cash register at Whole Foods or being a janitor at Costco or a career coach at The Executive Agency.
  • Okay, you may be “better than that” — and I agree you probably have more skills than such a position requires and are “worth” much more than the pay. But, eating is a big part of life, and if you can eat, then you can spend a bit more time figuring out how to make your “passion” into something that some venture/venture fund will pay for.
  • “Existence precedes and rules essence.” — Sartre
  • Work is meaningful. Doing any work well is admirable.

Why am I so strident about this? I have listened to commencement speakers, and I want to shout at them: “STOP!”

Commencement speakers are usually wealthy donors to the university who are happy to think back to how they followed their passion to find (take your pick) wealth, innovation, power, and/or the meaning of life.

Well, at least in the Los Angeles region, this is not the usual experience right now.

If a grad waits to find the job that will fuel passion, the wait time may be a long stay on a parent’s/friend’s couch, without a cent, playing video games and clutching on to fragile sanity.

Work at something (dare I say “anything”?). Volunteer at something (anything). Enjoy the fact that you can do something well. Then reflect on your real work, the work that you have accomplished. In any work, you can uncover the gold veins of passion and meaning.

PS: And make sure to find someone to vote for who understands how to CREATE jobs… so, with luck, the next generation can take the time to be playful innovators post graduation. Let’s get back to the opportunities afforded the old generation not so long ago (Mark Zuckerberg’s generation?).

Guest Blogger Pat Palleschi is the President of The Executive Agency. She has devoted the past 25 years to creating HR strategies that help organizations and individuals succeed. As VP of Human Resources Development at Disneyland, she helmed the Disney University, where she and her team made it their mission to attract, develop and retain Disney Cast members who were “pumped to perform.” Before Disney, Pat served as Senior VP of Training for Bank of America. She earned her doctorate at the University of Massachusetts and chaired the Speech Communication Department at Loyola Marymount

No Exit: Why Exit Strategies Can Be Bad For Business

by Freddy J. Nager, MAOM Associate Faculty & Entrepreneurial Advisor
In a business plan the “exit strategy” describes how the entrepreneur intends to unload her business in, say, five to ten years. Common options include going public on the stock market or selling the business to someone else.

Even if you want to run your business for life, you’ll have difficulty attracting financing if you don’t cite an exit strategy, since the investors aren’t giving you their money out of benevolence — they want returns (and many happy ones at that).

So you do what you have to do to appease the finance gods. (Though considering what’s happened on Wall Street over the past few years, should we still be doing their bidding?) After all, there’s no harm in saying you’ll pull an IPO or sell your company to Google in the distant future — right?

Except that your investors will likely hold you to it.

Now, even investors know that long-term projections in a business plan are nearly as fictitious as the term “affordable housing.” Plans often change. The problem arises when a single-minded obsession with an exit strategy overrides all commitment to building a profitable business.

As depicted in my satirical article, Lemons 2.0: If Everything were Run like a Dotcom, many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs forgot the other integral part of their business plan called “the revenue model.” I knew one company that was so eager to get bought out, they launched a publicity campaign even before their product was even finished.

From Feast to Famine
These entrepreneurs all salivated like pitbulls in a sausage factory when Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion before the video site even turned a profit. Consequently, hundreds of start-ups launched with no realistic revenue model but, rather, an eye on having some mega-corporation snap them up.

Then the recession struck all this corporate matrimony like a bucket of cold water, and some of those mega-corps started looking for saviors of their own. Yahoops. Consequently, many of those exit-oriented start-ups beceme bottom-ups, landing in the TechCrunch Deadpool, with most people not knowing they ever existed.

Consider these links that Wikipedia provides for “Exit Strategy”:

Iraq Study Group Report
Pyrrhic victory
No-win situation
Total U.S. Withdrawal in the Vietnam War

Not exactly inspiring, huh?

An Alternative To Investors And Exit Plans

SRC Holdings, an American manufacturing conglomerate, emphasizes profitability, thinks through all contingencies, and has never laid a single employee off. The Inc. magazine interview with SRC CEO Jack Stack is a must-read for entrepreneurs who are serious about running a business. You won’t find any obsession with exit strategies here — indeed, the company remains privately held after 26 years, with ownership firmly in the hands of its employees.

The Verdict
So should you have an exit strategy? Yes, if you invade another country or enter a PhD program.

If you absolutely need to entice and appease investors, then put an exit strategy in your business plan; but before buying your first Aeron chair, engrave these words into the front door of your spanking new office:

“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”

Keep repeating these words to yourself and to all your partners and employees. Sure, marriage vows may not hold a lot of weight in these here parts, but they’ll at least have you thinking in the right direction — and not towards the nearest escape.

Guest Blogger Freddy J. Nager teaches courses in social media, entrepreneurship and marketing at AULA. The founder of agency Atomic Tango LLC, Freddy has over two decades of professional experience in marketing and media, including 17 online. He previously worked for music label MCA Records and major ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, and served such clients as Nissan & Infiniti, the NFL on Fox, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, National Lampoon and numerous startups. He holds a BA from Harvard University and an MBA from the University of Southern California

OMG – She/He is Leaving! How to Handle Key Staff Departures

by David Norgard

"The board meetings just won't be the same without you..."

First, a story from a friend and colleague, David Cupps…

David Cupps currently serves on two boards of directors. One organization is a national advocacy group; the other is a local musical group. By coincidence, each board was informed of the departure of a key staff member within days of each other.

In the case of the advocacy group, it was the administrator who was leaving after more than a decade of extraordinary service. He had done so much for so long with so little that it was hard to imagine moving forward without him. Likewise with the music group: in that case, it was the artistic director, and music ensembles need their direction.

So what does a board – and executive director – do? What should they do?

Wringing hands in quiet despair and watching the descent into chaos with a piteous gaze is probably not the most helpful response. What David has been learning from these two similar situations, he recounts below:

  1. Remain calm. Your attitude will be contagious for good or ill, so act like you want your members/constituents to act.
  2. Quickly inform other leaders. They will appreciate being on the “inside track,” and you will need their help and solidarity.
  3. Make a plan and let people know. People will be glad to know you are doing something about the situation and will feel relieved. This is a good idea even if your plans change later!
  4. Communicate – even to the point of over-communicating. People begin to panic if they do not know what is happening. Do not worry about repeating yourself. Often people miss the first message, skim the second one, and misunderstand the third one.
  5. Revise your plan as necessary. Don’t let your plan become outdated. You will need a common understanding with your fellow leaders and a current road map is the easiest way to stay on task.

My friend David Cupps and I have led parallel lives lately in the respect that we both have had to deal with unexpected departures. In my case, it was a university development officer. She had done great work and then she was gone. I feared that alumni relations would grind to a halt – or worse – regress. Tempted to succumb to the hand-wringing option, I reviewed what I teach in supervisory training classes and workshops. (It is often said and often true: We learn ourselves by teaching others.)

In managing staff, it is a given that good people will both come and go. Nowadays, the long tenure of a great staff member is the increasingly rare exception.

Aware of this reality, we can take one of two approaches.

We can ignore it and – a little like Claude Rains in “Casablanca” – be shocked to find it going on in our establishment. Or, we can expect it and be prepared… But that begs the question. How does one become prepared and, for that matter, stay prepared? Is there some emergency protocol to put in a binder for when this type of “crisis” strikes? Is there some kit to buy and mount on the wall?

In a word, no. However, there is a long-term strategy – rather counter-intuitive on first reading – which sets the stage for smoother transitions. As a friend and colleague once put it, we need to think these days just as much about “getting the people done through work” as about “getting the work done through people.”

In other words, we need to value professional development and not just productivity.

People who work put forth effort that results in individual performance. This leads to results for the organization; it also needs to lead to rewards for the individual.

Part of the equation, of course, is compensation and benefits. Yet equally valued in the workforce today is the opportunity for professional development. In small and medium sized nonprofits, there are often few, if any, opportunities for professional advancement… but there are many possibilities for learning skills, acquiring knowledge, making contacts, and engaging in creative processes.

The short view of facilitating professional development is that a person will grow into greater capability, only to desire something greater and eventually leave. That will probably happen anyway. People come and go.

But when the person who has been “developed” leaves, what is left behind is a legacy of caring about staff and a commitment to excellence… and what is carried into the world is an enduring respect for and appreciation of your organization.

In addition to being an Associate Faculty member in the M.A. in Organizational Management Program of Antioch University Los Angeles, David Norgard is the founder of OD180, a consulting firm that develops strategies for nonprofit organizations. He has also held leadership roles on various nonprofit boards and committees. At present, he serves as the President of Integrity USA, the Episcopal Church’s LGBT advocacy group. A graduate of AULA’s M.A. in Organizational Management program, David currently serves as Chair of AULA’s Alumni & Community Advisory Board. He also holds a B.A. magna cum laude from Augsburg College and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, where he received a Dean’s Citation for Community Service and an Award of Distinction among Alumni.