Tomorrow’s Talent Management Today

Over the past generation, talent management practices, especially in the United States, have by and large been dysfunctional, leading corporations to lurch from surpluses of talent to shortfalls to surpluses and back again (Cappelli, 2008).  This, the introductory statement to the HBR article Talent Management for the Twenty-First Century describes the plight felt by today’s corporations, in an era where both the supply and demand of talent rest in environments as unstable as the economy itself.  At the precipice of this issue are the considerations for career paths.  With the greater majority of variables being as descriptive of personal characteristics as organizational ones, solutions for the merger of such concepts as career success and talent management become less frequently available.  One solution as proposed by Cappelli (2008) includes, “The issues and challenges in managing an internal talent pipeline—how employees advance through development jobs and experiences—are remarkably similar to how products move through a supply chain: reducing bottlenecks that block advancement, speeding up processing time, improving forecasts to avoid mismatches” (p. 2).  Hall (1976) introduced the concept of the ‘protean career’, characterized by individuals taking the lead in career management, driven by the change of personal rather than organizational needs;  he even argued that the ‘career’ no longer exists within organizations (Kim, 2005).

The meeting place of these ideas may rest in the concept of organizational interventions.  As Kim (2005) in Organizational Interventions Influencing Employee Career Development Preferred by Different Career Success Orientations describes a “study [which] explores Korean employees’ perspectives on organizational interventions that influence their career development, according to personal definitions of career success (p. 48).  A sample of 1,000 respondents of a wireless communication company responded to a survey which identified career success orientations and preferred organizational interventions.  Kim (2005) describes the findings as, “From a practical perspective, at the organizational level, the findings of this study imply that organizations may want to design their career mobility systems or performance incentive systems in accordance with employees’ career orientations” (p. 59).

Where the existing literature becomes scant, is when the task becomes elucidating what is meant by creating organizational-individual alignment for like-minded career planning to optimize career success in talent management. Research which has shed some light on this topic, however, includes Martin & Schmidt (2010) in How to Keep Your Top Talent, wherein they list the 10 critical components of a talent development program (p. 6).  These components include (a) explicitly test candidates in three dimensions (ability, engagement, and aspiration); (b) emphasize future competencies; (c) manage the quantity and quality of high potentials; (d) forget rote functional or business-unit rotations; (e) identify the riskiest, most challenging positions; (f) create individual development plans; (g) reevaluate top talent annually; (h) offer significantly differentiated compensation; (i) hold regular, open dialogues; (j) replace broadcast communications about the company’s strategy with individualized messages for emerging leaders (Martin & Schmidt, 2010).

“We conducted a survey of human resources executives from 40 companies around the world in 2005, and virtually all of them indicated that they had an insufficient pipeline of high-potential employees to fill strategic management roles” lament Ready & Conger (2007) of Make Your Company a Talent Factory.  In an industrial environment where organizations are forced to forgo contracts, which contribute to either substantial gains in revenue and/or market share, few organizations have in-place what the authors call “talent factories”.  In these scenarios, they marry functionality, rigorous talent processes that support strategic and cultural objectives, and vitality, emotional commitment by management that is reflected in daily actions (Ready & Conger, 2007).  While the study speaks to the development and retention of key personnel in adopting this approach, the further benefit is an alignment with some of the preferences of the current organizational population including achievement, realism, and conscientiousness emphasized in evidence-based decision making.  Adding a layer of predictability to this inter-organizational movement arms companies with the ability to be cognizant of where resources should be allocated for this process of utmost importance, and as the generational shift which has sparked the ‘War for Talent’ continues with a level of fervor not before seen among corporate ranks.

– Justin

Cappelli, P. (2008). Talent management for the twenty-first century. Harvard Business Review, 86(3), 74-81.

Kim, N. (2005). Organizational interventions influencing employee career development preferred by different career success orientations. International Journal of Training & Development, 9(1), 47-61.

Ready, D. A., & Conger, J. A. (2007, September 15). How to fill the talent gap. Wall Street Journal – Eastern Edition. p. R4.

Martin, J., & Schmidt, C. (2010). How to keep your top talent. Harvard Business Review, 88(5), 54-61.


Leveraging Support Systems for Unparalleled Performance

Tacit-explicit interactions largely determine the extent to which participants make use of others’ knowledge, build on others’ creative insights, and harness the synergistic potential of product-innovation settings (Biscaccianti, Esposito, & Williams, 2011).  While the authors were expressly referring to product innovation, this conclusion is equally applicable in nearly all organizational situations where knowledge exchange occurs.  This universality is the direct result of the need for those who possess greater experience – who thereby possess greater tacit knowledge – to then share this with those who may possess greater explicit knowledge – such as those acting on the cutting-edge who are perhaps less experienced yet aware of emerging trend.   The meeting place of the tacit-explicit interaction is therefore a situation where at least two participants part ways sharing collectively deeper levels of understanding in the nuance of current, experience-supported technical expertise.

Support systems, such as this interaction where an innovator supports another, is a source of unparalleled performance based on a mutually beneficial relationship.  Once a particular passion or interest is unleashed, constant interaction among group members, with their varying skills and talents, functions as a kind of peer amplifier, providing numerous outlets, resources, and aids to further an individual’s learning (Thomas & Brown, 2011).  On the scale of an organization, this same amplification is seen at a collective height where an individual’s benefit is multiplied many times over.  This distinction becomes inherently crucial when regarding organizational performance, as the focus is normatively on the proper comprehension & execution of a strategy and its objectives.  Yet in situations where a strategy is poorly articulated or understood – or in situations where workers are charged with conjuring their own plans of attack – gaps in the collective knowledge of an organization begin to amass as portions of the organization advance in disparate directions to satiate the same goal(s).  As remarked by Merchant (2010), “In Silicon Valley, we call that gap an ‘Air Sandwich’: the empty void in an organization between the high-level strategy conjured up in the stratosphere and the realization of that vision down on the ground”.

Support systems, in this instance referring to any opportunity for the knowledge/skills/abilities of one to provide benefit to another, can unlock potential stifled by these structural and communication-based barriers to execution and therefore performance.  One such strategy includes building an advice-and-counsel network of trusted advisers within and outside the organization with whom to talk through what you are experiencing (Watkins, 2003).  Additional strategies include mobilizing organizational change by setting the fast zebras free, and melting the frozen tundra by seeding a movement and ultimately proving the movement works (Katzenbach & Kahn, 2010).  In nearly every instance, a terse summary of the suggested approach for eliminating the void and driving unparalleled performance requires a collective representation of knowledge both in storage and in use.  This knowledge, as well as opportunities to identify positive deviance such that they may be communicated as best practice which will ultimately drive structured efficacy toward pointed, consistent organizational measures of performance allows for an evolved lens with which to view performance toward a single, holistic purpose.

– Justin

Biscaccianti, A., Esposito, M., & Williams, L.C. (2011). The M3C model of cooperative contextual change. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing & Enterprises.

Katzenbach, J. R. & Khan, Z. (2010). Leading outside the lines: How to mobilize the (in)formal organization, energize your team, and get better results. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Merchant, N. (2010). The new how: Creating business solutions through collaborative strategy. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, Inc.

Thomas, D. & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown.

Watkins, M. (2003). The first 90 days: Critical success strategies for new leaders at all levels. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Leading Down the Path of Greatest Resistance

A culture of high performance depends on commitment at the highest levels of the organization—not only to set it in motion but also to maintain the momentum that ensures ongoing high performance (Thomas, Harburg, & Dutra, 2007).  Change is not a concept in its infancy nor is change an easy process, yet as the c-suite continues to rely on those reporting to them to execute change within an organization, the potential result is an unmanned and underperforming change effort.  To set the stage for fluid change in an organization, one can begin with an exploration into the concept of leadership as it applies to this effort in particular.  Perhaps not because leadership is all that makes a change effort successful, yet rather because a lack of leadership can be all that is needed to make a change effort a failure.

Transcending our own egos, entering uncertainty, being open and seeking increased awareness, challenging our own hypocrisy, being purpose-centered – it all sounds very intense and difficult to sustain (Quinn, 2004).  Leading change at the individual level can often be confused with simply taking tenacious action.  Yet, as Quinn describes, it is far more about undergoing a transformational effort within the self regarding perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and patterns of behavior.  Rather than looking at the organization juxtaposed to personal life, perhaps a more efficacious approach is to view the organization in conjunction with personal life.  This done not because it is acceptable to bring personal  turmoil to the workplace, rather because it is sought that every leader who has the opportunity to succeed in a change effort brings the life lessons, attitudes, and beliefs of self to the organization instead.  Once congruence is reached between the personal and professional lives of a leader than true action can begin.  And once a leader is congruent, focus, perseverance, and a true sense of leadership can emerge.

The energy and moral power of people in the fundamental state of leadership tends to be contagious (Quinn, 2004).  This excerpt pertains to the concept of Emergent Leadership.  Emergent Leadership is much less about the hierarchical means of process integration as prescribed by industry for prior decades, and is instead regarding the leadership role each individual on a team takes when relative strengths can become both apparent and utilized in a change effort.  Teams in organizations have a tendency to gravitate toward structure, isolating leadership within a team, and assigning accountability based on either title, pay grade, or political standing.  Emergent Leadership conversely discusses an individual becoming the team leader only insomuch as they create the opportunity for each team member to feel free to lead each aspect of a change effort where individual talents can emerge.  As such, to lead a team thereby becomes much less about exacting orders, and much more about bringing to light the individual talents of each member of the team, while simultaneously empowering them to use those talents. Organizations need to change constantly, for all kinds of reasons, but achieving a true step change in performance is rare (Meaney & Pung, 2008).  Ever-Increasing Integrity is a term used to envelope all concepts surrounding revitalized, transformational leadership via the methods as described.  Quinn posits that with ever-increasing integrity; organizations have the ability to empower individuals at all levels to contribute to the leadership of the change effort in such a way that a more contagious, shared-values approach is seen throughout the transformation.  It is with Ever-Increasing Integrity, in combination with Emergent Leadership & personal congruence, that leaders of all levels have the opportunity to contribute toward a successful transformation effort.  Rather than finding themselves responsible for forcing the change onto the organization, they are no longer leading down the path of greatest resistance.

– Justin

Hrebiniak, L.G. (2005). Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing

Meaney, M. & Pung, C. (2008). Creating Organizational Transformations. New York, NY: McKinsey & Company

Thomas, R.J., Harburg, F., & Dutra, A. (2007). How to Create a Culture of High Performance. New York, NY: Accenture.

Attribution Errors in Viewing Organizational Complexity

If concepts such as The Corporate Lattice, Management Innovation, Positive Deviance, Collective Leadership, and Hyperspecialization teach us anything, it is the organization of today will soon no longer exist.  Yet sea change as a concept to envelope what’s happening is quickly becoming a tired excuse.  Rather than committing the fundamental attribution error of assigning all blame to one construct, can we instead begin to chip away at the solution by beginning to dissect the myriad contributions to its existence?

As remarked by Mintzberg, Ahlstrand, and Lampel (1998), “Cognition aside, in reviewing a large body of literature, ten distinct points of view did emerge, most of which are reflected in management practice… each has a unique perspective that focuses [on] one major aspect of the strategy-formation process” (p. 4).  These ten points of view include the Design, Planning, Positioning, Entrepreneurial, Cognitive, Learning, Power, Cultural, Environmental, and Configuration Schools.  Each school looks at the strategy process differently, and includes many sentiments regarding which is the key actor, and what drives strategy.  Of particular note in this research is the Environmental School.  The Environmental School depicts the strategy process as being outside of the organization, and the organization instead more of a ‘mirror’ to what surrounds it.  The consequences of such a premise include both the organization’s requirement to respond to environmental factors or be selected out, and include the clustering together in distinct ecological-type niches, or positions where they remain until resources become scarce or conditions too hostile (Mintzberg et. al, 1998).

In a recently published article entitled A Corporate Climate of Mutual Help, Edgar Schein, known as MIT’s ‘sage of organizational culture’ spoke of the need for interdependence to be at the heart accountability in organizations.  Schein (2011) remarked, “Better teamwork requires perpetual mutual helping, [across] boundaries…  I don’t see how we’re going to get there unless we create cultural ‘islands’ – situations in which people can go outside the organization’s norms and practices and explicitly create [this relationship]” (p. 3).  This recalibrating of organizations speaks to pointed efforts to reduce or eliminate the boundaries seen in organizations whereby functions are departmentalized, and senior leadership does not exercise opportunities to make others ‘feel psychologically safe’ as Schein describes.  Based on this evaluation, there exists a need to reorganize the organization to be one exhibiting more matrix characteristics, where specialized teams can be created across cultural boundaries to solve the problem at-hand.  Creating a culture of true collaboration, and one where the skills of one department, function, or team are not isolated from another based on organization, and one where the organization itself is not a precursor for how work is done.

Howard Gardner, in his text entitled Five Minds for the Future (2006), chronicles the aptitudes which will be in high demand in the coming future, and describes these abilities in greater detail.  These minds include the disciplinary mind, the synthesizing mind, the creating mind, the respectful mind, and the ethical mind.  In order to assess value, one must consider the world of the future – with its ubiquitous search engines, robots, and other computational devices – will demand capacities that until now have been mere options (Gardner, 2006).  These five minds become important, as understanding persons unlike us can be a tumultuous endeavor.  An effort wrought with misunderstanding, with confusion, with undetected bias.  Yet, in considering these five minds, we are bestowed a template with which to evaluate a person’s ability to contribute to organizational success, and a means for evaluating best fit once self-regard is known.

Design, culture, and aptitude do not encompass all which attribute to the change both here and on the horizon.  Certainly no one discipline can answer this question for us either.  Yet these three lenses are indeed a beginning to the learning which is and will continue to be required of us, if we are to aggregate human effort for the purpose of elevating the societies which our organizations intrinsically serve.

– Justin

Gardner, H. (2006) Five minds for the future.  Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press

Mintzberg, H., Ahlstrand, B., & Lampel, J. (1998). Strategy safari: A guided tour through the wilds of strategic management. New York, NY.: The Free Press

Schein, E. (2011). A corporate climate of mutual help. New York, NY: Booz & Company, Inc.

Updating the Definition of Workplace Teams

According to Benko & Anderson (2010), “Companies use forty times as many projects now as they used twenty years ago, heightening the need for teamwork… Work is changing so fast that the U.S. Department of Education estimates that 60 percent of all new jobs in the twenty-first century will requires skills that only 20 percent of current employees possess” (p. 2).  Teams are a complex topic, ruled by a simplistic mindset, including getting people together, communicating a problem, electing a leader, and assigning work.  Good teams add measures (metrics) ahead of time to assess how they’re doing as they go, while better teams incorporate communications about themselves ahead of time to better evaluate how each will add to the project’s collective success (individual value propositions).  Yet is this really it?  In a Google/YouTube/Flickr world, are we really doing everything we can to bring teams into the 21st century, and is technology the only possible contributor today?  Not really.

Consider the Spring 2011 edition of the MIT Sloan Management Review.  In the article, Why Project Networks Beat Project Teams, the question was how can organizations help teams successfully tackle complex projects (Cummings & Pletcher, 2011).  Findings included the following:

  • By tapping the personal networks of team members to create a project network, a team can receive valuable information and feedback from “noncore contributors” not part of the official team.
  • The number of noncore contributors who helped a team was a positive and significant predictor of team success.
  • Managers can explicitly encourage the formation of project networks.

The implication here then is the concept of a project team has for too long been too rigidly defined.  Open source is another great example of this, and the overarching idea to both concepts being the team does not need rigidity to garner performance; whereas the collective is a more powerful contributor to team success. Have you ever looked on, as a team just outside of your  each could have been helped by something you knew, and you sat back asking, “why didn’t they just ask me?”  That is this concept in action.  Today’s organizations are not the hierarchies of yesterday, and are not the fixed installments of positions / roles / rights / responsibilities we once knew.  Departments work together more seamlessly, challenges require the collective insight of the whole, and team structures must change in order to equally adapt.

As a final thought, to truly conceptualize the shift discussed, consider this from Blenko, Mankins, & Rogers (2010) of Decide & Deliver: 5 Steps to Breakthrough Performance in your organization:

“The ultimate challenge for any organization is not just to fix individual [decisions].  It is to create an environment where best practices happen naturally – where the whole organizational system supports people in making and executing good decisions quickly.  To sustain great performance, you have to determine which elements of the organization actually do reinforce good decisions and which don’t.  Then you can adjust the parts that are getting in the way.”

– Justin

Benko, C. & Anderson, M. (2010). The corporate lattice: Achieving high performance in the changing world of work. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Blenko, M.W., Mankins, M.C., & Rogers, P. (2010). Decide & deliver: 5 steps to breakthrough performance in your organization. Boston, MA: Bain & Company, Inc.

Cummings, J. & Pletcher, C. (2011). Why project networks beat project teams. MIT Sloan Management Review, 52(3). 75-80.

Hamel, G. (2007). The future of management. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Aligning Paradigmatic Reality in Organizational Inquiry

Positivist adherents believe action to be either a form of advocacy or a form of subjectivity, either or both of which undermine the aim of objectivity (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005).  With this definition in mind, it requires the researcher regard positivism and participatory study as mutually exclusive when discussing the call to action.  This based on the positivist view that including action in the research reduces validity, as opposed to participatory study which says that action is where the study derives its validity.  If action is not the responsibility of the researcher in positivist study, and action is crucial to validity in the participatory paradigm, it is clear that in order to ensure that validity of the research with respect to both approach and axiology, the participatory paradigm must remain with respect to the call to action as well, such that the interactions of the participants and confirming actions regarding exploring a solution can be assessed.

Paradigmatic formulations interact such that control becomes inextricably intertwined with mandates for objectivity (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005).  Whether objectivity is determined as control residing solely in the researcher as in positivism, or where control is a more shared feature among participants as in participatory study dictates not only the level of control, but the application of control within the study.  Templates of truth and knowledge can be defined in a variety of ways – as the end product of rational processes, as the result of experimental sensing, as the result of empirical observation, and others (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005).  With respect to the relationship of truth & knowledge in inquiry, positivism regarding these as foundational, whereas participatory study regards these as non-foundational.  More recently, truth and knowledge in research have been regarded as the empirical, and not without some human interaction.  Yet, as truth and knowledge become the foundation of what is perceived as in positivism, it leaves little room for interpretations of reality within participants in a collaborative or competing environment.

As participatory study regards truth and knowledge as non-foundational, these empirical or implied realities which dictate participant perception of their surrounding world are not the foundation on which the study is grounded.  Rather, as the axiology suggests, the values, beliefs, and spirituality of the participants in the shared environment become the collective reality.

With this definition in mind, from an axiological standpoint participatory study offers the most value, from a commensurability perspective these two paradigms are mutually exclusive, and from control, truth & knowledge, and overall efficacy of study; participatory study offers a higher value proposition in an environment where shared attributes and experiences are most emphasized throughout the research process.

– Justin

Coghlan, D. & Brannick, T. (2005). Doing action research in your own organization (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications,  Inc.

Denzin, N.K., & Lincoln, Y.S. (2005). The sage handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Herr, K. & Anderson, G.L. (2005). The action research dissertation: A guide for students & faculty. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications,  Inc.

Patton, M.Q. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Research versus Intuition in Innovation Decisions

An organization’s values are the criteria by which employees make prioritization decisions – by which they judge whether an order is attractive or unattractive, whether a customer is more important or less important, whether an idea for a new product is attractive or marginal, and so on (Hesselbein, Goldsmith, & Somerville, 2002).  Optimal operational capacity, thematic emphasis along four planes of strategic capability, and environmentally driven responses using aligned business units are all effective methods with which to assess what work should be performed in the predictable future.

Yet not all questions require analytical responses, nor do all aspects of an organization’s strategy require maps and process diagramming.  There are decisions to be made that reside in the intuitive ‘gut’ level as well.  To fully appreciate the efficacy of making these intuitive decisions requires a minimalistic approach toward emphasizing a preexisting condition within the organization.  The values of a company can guide a multitude of questions that are otherwise regarded as either technical or complex decisions to make.  An organization’s values may begin as expressed mantras, yet ultimately become an intrinsic part of what the organization has evolved to become.  It is these values that can give the members of an organization a window into what can be done, and ultimately resolved, at the intuitive level.

The values of successful firms tend to evolve in a predictable fashion on at least two dimensions (Hesselbein, Goldsmith, & Somerville, 2002).  It is with this initial emphasis on the organization’s values that one can then begin to predict which decisions require a process driven approach utilizing research along thematic lines, and which decisions can be intuitively deduced via a simple reminder of what the organization’s values are.  Yet whether an intuitive or thematic route, a clear starting point of assessing the market environment – and acknowledging reaction to it is key – becomes the successful linchpin of effective strategic decisions.  As Biscaccianti, Esposito, & Williams (2011) remark, “Values determine the definition of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.  Values are closely related to the ideals people share and serve as a moral benchmark against which aspirations and behaviors are judged” (p. 45).

– Justin

Biscaccianti, A., Esposito, M., & Williams, L.C. (2011). The M3C model of cooperative contextual change. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing & Enterprises.

Hesselbein, F., Goldsmith, M., & Somerville, I. (2002). Leading for innovation: And organizing results. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Preparing the Workplace for Gen-X Commitment

Rousseau (2007), in a preface to his research on retention strategies and Generation X, comments, “By the time I entered the workforce my perspective was much different than that of my baby-boomer parents.  I wanted mutuality.  I wanted respect for my contributions.  I wanted a fair wage.“ (p. 1).  The workplace of today is in no way a mirror image of organizations past, yet this is also not to say that today’s organization is fully prepared to receive the Gen-X workforce either.  To that end, Rousseau (2007) cites that “Seventy percent of [Gen-]X’ers stated they would quit if they thought they could find increased intellectual stimulation elsewhere” (p. 43).  As a result of an exhaustive literature review on the topic of turnover/retention in today’s organizations, the author also concludes ”Generation X, while more dynamic than two retention practices, is fundamentally defined by the values that are associated with the two retention practices described in depth in this paper.  Generation X’ers want work-life balance and meaning” (p. 53).

In recent years, Herzberg’s theory on motivation and McGregor’s theories X and Y were used to examine attitudes and motivational factors that stimulate and increase employee satisfaction leading to increased employee recruitment and retention (Lee, 2007).  Lee (2007) utilized a mixed method approach to couple a phenomenology with a questionnaire, which surveyed members of the Society of Louisiana Certified Public Accountants.  These 16 participants allowed Lee (2007) to come to the conclusion that, not only had recruitment and retention become a cause for concern among accounting professionals, but also that “Organizations will need to be willing to change current methods of recruitment and motivation techniques and consider new ways of attracting and motivating accountants that will entice them to remain with the organization” (p. 133).  The author lists ‘organizational structure’ as one viable option for change since Gen-X workers were found to be more apprehensive to hierarchy as they found it more a hindrance than a benefit.

To continue this avenue of research, the Financial Planning Association published, Serving the Next Generation.  The article, published Q1 2009, was “based on a recent Financial Planning Association survey of 3,022 consumers with over $50,000 in income or investable assets… focuses on the current behaviors, planning needs, and benefits of planning to Generation X” (FPA, 2009, p. 1).  As a primary takeaway from this survey, while Generation X’s areas of stress are more short term, their goals are long term; they need a plan to help them become behaviorally future-focused as opposed to simply thinking long term (FPA, 2009).  This financial reality, as implication for an employment one, is further defended by the supposition that we’ll work for much smaller organizations that outsource everything but the business’s core area of expertise, and more than half of us will eventually become contingent workers, employed part time or as freelancers or consultants (Levit, 2009).  Thus, the conclusion drawn is not one of a pattern of behavior where Generation X is simply a grouping dedicated to freely floating between intellectually stimulating positions, and instead speaks to a grouping of society that faces the realities of the current economic times.  They accept the harsh truth and cynicism that invokes a survival instinct, which mitigates any current inclinations to commit to an organization.

– Justin

Financial Planning Association. (2009). Serving the next generation. Journal of Financial Planning, 22(3), 1-7.

Lee, D. (2007). Recruitment and retention of generation x accountants: An analysis of motivational factors and their influence. Ph.D. dissertation, Capella University, United States — Minnesota.

Levit, A. (2009). The future world of work: A gen xer’s perspective. Futurist, 43(5), 39.

Rousseau, P. (2007). Turnover, retention, and generation x: The workplace relationship. M.A. dissertation, State University of New York Empire State College, United States — New York.

Generations and Aligning for Workplace Collaboration

This Thursday, June 2, 2011 was the first day of this year’s Dissertation and Research Conference at Argosy University – Phoenix.  Among those attending, were the great many recent and soon to be graduating doctors of the campus’ PsyD, EdD, and DBA programs to new a few, and topics ranged from at-risk students and retention, to Game Theory, Corporate Social Responsibility, and my work on Self-Esteem and Extrinsic Career Success.  Asked to present, I spoke for roughly 20 minutes on a cursory overview of what the latest findings had been.  To my predictable amazement, however, the conversation turned to one on the multiple generations in the workplace and how organizations can be better aligned to these shifting demands.

Since the 1960s, when the term ‘generation gap’ was first coined to describe the differences between the WWII population (the Silent Generation) and its offspring (Baby Boomers), generations have been learning how to co-exist (Simons, 2010, p. 29).  To this end, Riescher (2009) of Capella University studied Management Across Time: A Study of Generational Workforce Groups (Baby Boomer and Generation X) and Leadership.  To learn more of the preferred leadership style, work values, and work attitudes to name a few of these generations, the author surveyed 942 participants across nine companies.  Drawing on ‘crossover effect’ as well as many suitable theories on studying generations, Riescher (2009) found, “The highest ranked characteristics were honest and receptive to people and ideas among all age groups” (p. 82).  While career decisions have ‘improved’ over time, abilities to satisfy Maslow’s lower order levels also continue, values around trust and being receptive to others persist consistently across generations.  Thus, although Boomers tended to think of themselves as a special generation, different from those individuals that had come before them; Generation X is typically team-oriented, banding together to socialize rather than pairing off (Simons, 2010).

The assumptions made regarding four generations employed in the same organization, sharing work processes and competing for resources sounds problematic to be sure, yet consistencies in values and a penchant for Gen-X to employ a collective style of working conducive to embracing wisdom should prove beneficial in environments seeking to channel intergenerational commitment.

Dr Justin Barclay – Dissertation Conference Presentation

– Justin

Riescher, J. (2009). Management across time: A study of generational workforce groups (Baby Boomer and Generation X) and leadership. Ph.D. dissertation, Capella University, United States — Minnesota. Retrieved November 4, 2010, from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text.(Publication No. AAT 3355469).

Simons, N. (2010). Leveraging generational work styles to meet business objectives. Information Management (15352897), 44(1), 28-33. Retrieved from Academic Search Elite database.

Organizational Alignment from Self-Regard

Can one’s commitment to position and organization be consistent only when one’s self-esteem is in agreement with the occupational prestige and income of that position?  “[Job] search behavior, whether it results in turnover or not, is costly because it absorbs time and energy that might be put to other uses (March & Simon, 1958) and may engender psychological processes that induce withdrawal behavior and reduce commitment to the current job and organization (Lock, 1976)” (Bretz Jr., Boudreau, & Judge, 1994, p. 277).  When researching the possible statistical relationship between self-esteem and extrinsic career success, early results have shown a direct relationship between increases in self-esteem and resulting increases in occupational prestige and income as seen in the Kammeyer-Mueller et al. (2007) study.  Additionally, those with lower levels of self-esteem were shown to possess lower levels of occupational prestige and income as well.

Generation X and Generation Y exhibit different perspectives and expectations than the Baby Boomer generation, the retention of Generation X members and the attraction of Generation Y members have proven elusive for many organizations (Bridgers & Johnson, 2006).  This lack of understanding as to the motivational factors begets further inquiry as to whether elevating job satisfaction or employee engagement alone is enough.

Evidence now exists of the relationship between self-esteem and extrinsic career success among survey respondents born into Generation-X.  Evidence now also exists of the relationship between education and extrinsic career success among these respondents.  This research has elucidated a relationship between aspects of personality and the stability of career paths, thus exhibiting the potential side-effect of compromises to organizational profitability when not in alignment.  This impact is driven by one’s self-esteem, and maintains a relationship with one’s income, and one’s occupational prestige.  With every year of formal education complete, a person is likely to earn an additional $2,700 per year six years in the future.  With every year of formal education complete, respondent’s Duncan SEI score increased by 3.79 points six years in the future.  Self-esteem accounted for an additional $300 per year when coupled with education and an additional $460 gross effect on income over the same period.

Organizations are at a crossroads, as they are in the midst of a shift in leadership from members of the Baby Boomer population to members of Generation X.  The respondents above cannot tell us all we need to know about Gen-X, but they can provide a glimpse as members of this generation, while serving to pilot for larger studies inclusive of a representative sample of Generation X members.  The literature has shown a tendency for this up-and-coming generation to be incentivized by merit, driven by individualism, while embracing a matrix organization that puts ceremony aside and concentrates on action.  This welcomed reception not based on new hire orientations which present reams of training material and countless presentations from numerous department heads.  These are instead orientations where employees who have had self-perception assessed prior to hire, and are put into roles befitting self and organization-aligned expectations.  They are given endless opportunities moving forward, to find true passion, and expand current skillset at a pace set by each individually, while serving a responsive and open organization.  When Gen-X entered the workforce, companies were blindsided… employers never expected Xers to behave differently from Baby Boomers or that they would have their own unique expectations about the workplace (Lancaster & Stillman, 2010).

– Justin

Bretz Jr., R., Boudreau, J., & Judge, T. (1994). Job search behavior of employed managers. Personnel Psychology, 47(2), 275-301. Retrieved from Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection database.

Bridgers, M., & Johnson, H. (2006). The aging workforce: The facts, the fiction, the future!. ASHRAE Journal, 48, A6-A9. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from ProQuest

Kammeyer-Mueller, J., Judge, T., & Piccolo, R. (2008). Self-Esteem and extrinsic career success: Test of a dynamic model. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 57(2), 204-224. doi:10.1111/j.1464-0597.2007.00300.x.

Lancaster, L.C. & Stillman, D. (2010). The m-factor: How the millennial generation is rocking the workplace. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers