What Ever Happened to small steps?


It seems to me that with every generation the expectations in terms of a career path grow. Gone are the days of the ‘Silent Generation’, starting out in a job or career and expecting to stay there for life (thankfully!). Gone too are the days of starting at the bottom and gradually over years in each role working your way to the top  – Coordinator, Executive, Manager, Senior Manager, Group Manager, Director etc. a trait of ‘Gen X’.  ‘Baby Boomers’ fall somewhere in between these two groups in their outlook / progression through work life.

These tiny and small steps have most recently given way to giant leaps and bounds. The latest ‘Gen Y’s’, or ‘Millennials’ as I’m told they like to be called, expect great jobs straight out of university, view six months as “experience”, are more than open to sideways and alternative career moves and envisage a swift rise up the corporate ladder (or ladders as many will have multiple career paths).

Organisations are gradually awaking to this phenomenon. Some have embraced it creating roles and opportunities to attract, engage, develop and retain this talent; viewing these younger generations and their swift adoption of ever changing technology and ideas as essential to their future success. Others are a little slower to come to the party.

Older generations too are taking note, and taking action. Slowly changing their approach to careers, work, development and expectations. A rise in adult education is testament to this as is Baby Boomers’ uptake of social media and the like, and more women returning to the workforce after raising families. These groups are adapting at a less break-neck pace than Millennials, but adapting nonetheless.

I feel it should be noted here that each of these Generations has its own set of characteristics, tendencies and expectations; unique to its members…I won’t elaborate on those here as that’s a whole other post, but resources are provided below.

So whilst I’ve wondered of late what happened to the small steps; I’m now thinking they can walk alongside and instep with leaps and bounds quite nicely. As HR types I believe it’s our role to recognise the different traits and values of these generations; and then to plan and prepare accordingly for all to work together for the future benefits of both the individual and the organisation. No easy task. Attracting, retaining, motivating, engaging and developing four essentially different groups will be no mean feat.

Seek first to identify which generation you sit in, then to define and understand the main drivers for the others. From here you will better understand how to get the best out of them. This is about small, but significant changes in leadership, management, coaching, reward and recognition, communication and more. There are many well documented studies on managing each of these groups, and so too, posts on the cross management of them. I think it’s best to start with a few universal strategies, and build individuality from there. My suggestions as starters:

  • Focus on results over process.
  • Encourage open communication and respect for diversity.
  • Get regular employee feedback.
  • Understand engagement and organisational culture, and what drives both.
  • Give thanks. Recognise success.

Start with small steps and build from there.


A great info graphic depicting the different Generations: http://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2011/05/living/infographic.boomer/

A more detailed description on each of the Generations: http://www.hrinz.org.nz/Site/Resources/Knowledge_Base/A-H/Diversity.aspx


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s