by Sam Neo
I had recently chanced upon an interesting video by Vishen Lakhiani on the topic of goal setting. He spoke about how we often focus on pursuing the MEANS goals rather than the END goals which results in misery and disengagement. Question is, why do people focus on the means goals and not end goals? Is it really a choice or are they perhaps, forced into it? Lakhiani opined that one key reason why people do so is because of the safety net which social norms create. In turn, most people tend to conform and follow the success and goals that are defined by the norm.
Challenge for us as HR professionals is then what can we do to help them focus on the right goals to create greater engagement and in turn, help develop people into the best possible version. In particular, we will need to consider the needs of the multi-generational workforce where they have different expectations at different phases of their lives. Despite having different needs, there are 3 common aspect that has to be in place, according to Lakhiani – Experience, Growth and Contribution.
Experience is the end goal which we spoke about; what kind of experiences we seek e.g. enjoying family time. Growth focuses on the things that has to be in place to achieve the desired experience; what needs to be done and how do you go about doing it? Finally, contribution is all about giving back and creating a sense of purpose from the experience obtained; this can be in the form of volunteerism and mentorship where experiences acquired by the individual helps others as well. Let’s know explore how we can apply it to the different generations.
Baby Boomers tend to be a group that believes in obtaining the well-deserved recognition from the hard work they put in. They are not afraid to slog it out but look forward to the prestige and appreciation with the amount of effort dedicated to their work. This means that the goal you want to set with them can be anchored around feeling a sense of relevance and status-based even though it may not be formal promotion.
In terms of experience, one focus area could be to help them work towards a Master status. Help them to be recognized as a subject matter expert in the fields there are in and get the due recognition for their contributions and competency. How do we get there? It could be as simple as identifying their core strength, help them build on it and position them as experts of the particular topic. In the meantime, it’s also important to find ways for them to contribute and what’s more valuable than making them mentors for the next generation of employees. By recognizing them as experts and mentors, they get the due respect and in turn, be more willing to pass on valuable knowledge which is key for business continuity and value retention.
Gen X tend to be a group where they value independence and control of their lives. As such, one thing that sticks out is the pursuit of work-life balance. This means that we need to allow them to achieve the mentioned control and balance in order to motivate them and help them focus on what’s important.
One way is through empowerment i.e. focus on results and not micromanage the way this group delivers results. Give them ownership and make them accountable for the results but yet, allow flexibility in their choice of delivery. That way, they will be focusing on attaining a balanced life with good results delivery without you spending excess energy to supervise them. To get there, you will need to work with them to define clear goals that are measurable and time-based. With that agreed, you can then trust that they will deliver and be held accountable for the outcomes. As this group values “me-time” and family time, the contribution part will be towards their family and loved ones where they can better manage time spent there. That said, the organization benefits as well because it creates an added benefit for the employee and in turn, shows that you care and are able to cater to their desired needs. After all, contributing back need not be in a direct manner. An indirect approach works as long as it serves its eventual purpose.
Millennial/Gen Y is a group that seeks challenges and values a wide range of exposures to enrich their life. To get them excited, focus on involving them in impactful projects. This will take away unnecessary attention on the need to get fast-tracked but rather, channelling their energy on the excitement that such experiences can give them. In order to get there, they need mentors and autonomy to run things on their own. The mentors can come from the Baby Boomer group and responsible autonomy could be guided by the more seasoned Gen X colleagues. Allow them to experiment and once again, hold them accountable for the results. For them to feel that they are giving back with such experiences, create opportunities for reverse mentoring where they can share new updates or technology in the market with the seasoned veterans. Very often, it is such exchanges that create greater synergy and value for the organisation.
It’s key to recognise the similarities and differences across generations. By equipping yourself with the knowledge, HR can better tailor the strategy to enable each group to deliver results more effectively. What’s more, it will harness the full potential of the 3 groups once we can make them interact, appreciate what drives each group and understanding the environment that they can best perform in. Help them focus on what truly matters and enable your multi-generational workforce today!