What "informal" conversations can teach leaders about perspective--driving strategies for today's multi-generational workplace

I had the good fortune of attending the AgCareers Ag HR Rountable in Kansas City, MO this week. The formal stage show brought us topics around bringing innovation into the workplace, the future of workforce--Gen Z, recruiting strategies, legal updates, recruiting as well as a number of equally important topics.

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The speakers were knowledgeable, engaging and experienced, but the big ticket value came from listening.I mean really listeningto side conversations at breakfast, during receptions, in the elevators, driving to and from the airport and so on

Informal Conversations

The formal agenda met attendee expectations in priming the pump, engaging, grounding and challenging their thinking. For me, the real meat of the three-day roundtable came from the new or deepened connections  and the themes which emerged from the collection of 'informal conversations'.

As I reflect upon my learning, listening and observations from the last three days, five important themes emerged: 

1) "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." 

We are living in a world filled with new realities from family systems, to technology to the design of how, where, and why we work. Failure to align our strategies for these new realities would be equivalent to using snail mail as your only method of customer communication in the Twenty First Century;

2) On-boarding and retention strategies should include aspects of critical thinking, professional and career development well beyond required paperwork and workplace safety videos.  

New hires from Gen Y and Gen Z, in particular, require interpersonal skill development. Twenty First Century businesses would do well to invest in and develop their people beyond the specific job functions they were hired to fulfill--shifting from a managing style to coaching;

3) "A rising tide lifts all boats", everyone in the company regardless of role must receive the same contextual information about the new realities within and surrounding the workplace.

In the absence of this new realities context, employers run the risk of alienating their work force into silos--fueling communication breakdowns, conflict, early retirements and low retention rates.

4) "How to deal with Millennials and Generation Z is often framed as the problem.

In reality, the solution lies with the integration of multiple generations toward a work culture that develops all people for thriving within the new realities;

5) The need for purposeful succession planning and a process for knowledge transfer. 

Those preparing for retirement possess a treasure chest of knowledge, experience and connections. We fail all generations if we allow this generation to leave the workforce without capturing what they have spent a lifetime learning, building, and dreaming about;

The informal conversations I listened to over the course of the last three days were spurred by new perspectives. While the individual take-away from each informal conversation may not seem valuable, a collection of informal conversations may be eye opening and cause themes to rise to the surface.  


Is your leadership listening to the stage show and the informal conversations? 

What is your company doing to spur new perspectives?

Are the pain points expressed through the company's informal channels valued?

Is your work culture safe for all employees to share honestly about the pain points and offer solutions without backlash?

When was the last time you gained a new perspective on a topic or belief?

What difference did it make?

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Mary Kay Delvo