Finding Common Ground

By Adrienne Fox May 1, 2011
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Leaders at Deloitte Inc. approach managing a multi-generational workforce through work/life balance, development opportunities and social media. Policies may be created at the behest of one generation, but they benefit all. The consulting firm’s nearly 50,000 U.S. employees are 36 percent Millennials, 46 percent Generation X, and 18 percent Baby Boomers.

Anne Weisberg, director in the Deloitte U.S. talent organization and a diversity specialist, helped create the firm’s Mass Career Customization program, which allows employees to create career paths based on their life stage. “Companies can’t design programs for each generation, so we have gone to a model where we allow people to customize their work experience. There’s so much variability now in how people live their lives that there’s no way that one structure is going to fit each individual person,” Weisberg notes.

All generations want learning opportunities, albeit for different reasons. “Gen Y wants to develop their skill base quickly to gain more responsibility,” Weisberg notes. “Generation Xers want to learn and grow to be positioned to take the top spots as Boomers retire. Boomers always have been avid learners for the sake of learning.” Deloitte delivers the learning based on the preferred methods and frequency of each generation.

Deloitte is moving toward offering more “hoteling” stations, or unassigned off-site workspaces. “Generation Y is used to working wherever there is a wireless connection,” Weisberg notes. “But Boomers see offices as a mark of prestige. So, we are getting push back from Boomers on this. We promote that this kind of work environment is more conducive to collaborating and for work/life flexibility.”

Deloitte has embedded social media tools in the entire talent life cycle of employees. “Before they come to Deloitte, they’re interacting with us via social media,” Weisberg says. “We have online communities and other ways to connect to others within the firm using this technology.”

When HR leaders noticed that female Millennials weren’t participating in the firm’s robust, award-winning women’s initiative leadership program, it sought to find out why. “We realized we weren’t communicating in their media—social media,” Weisberg says. “As soon as we started doing that, participation by the women in that generation increased.”

Because of that misstep, HR leaders saw the need for an advisory council to help give a voice to the younger generation. The Generation Y Advisory Council’s members act as a sounding board for company decisions and advise on issues related to engaging their generation. This year, for example, the council is looking at mentoring relationships and work/life balance.

Millennials want opportunities to interact with and learn from peers. Group mentoring may offer these workers a familiar, comfortable setting to interact with peers and receive support from a more senior person. And, group mentoring can be built around any number of electronic communications platforms.

The author is a contributing editor and former managing editor of HR Magazine.

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