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Engaging Generational Workforce Through Socialization
By Matthew W. Hurtienne, Ph.D.

What is wrong with this new generation? These new employees are so lazy? I don’t understand why they can’t just do their job and stop asking so many questions. In my day, we came to work, we worked hard, kept our mouths shut, and did what our leaders asked. Have you ever heard comments like these?

Recently, I had the chance to sit down and listen to millennials and post-millennials talk about their current experiences at a significant employer in Southwest Wisconsin.  During these discussions, we learned about employment factors that may impact employee engagement for millennial and gen-z generational workers.  As the interviews continued, a few themes emerged, showing a correlation that the participants want to be accepted by peers and leaders, they prefer to be recognized for their individualized skills that can contribute to organizational success, and they believe that organizations should continue to invest in education and professional development.
 
Take some time to reflect on those themes; how do the topics relate to your practice?  As HR practitioners working with a diverse workforce, we have the opportunity to utilize organizational development and personnel training to improve the performance of individuals, teams, and the entire organization (Hurtienne, Ljubenko, Hurtienne, 2017). It is our field that can help organizations to understand the impact of organizational cohorts better and eventually align practices to improve performance.
 
As the gen-z cohort enter the workforce, they will bring with them a new set of skills, experiences, and traits that are unique and different than the workforce that came before them or that came before them. These generational differences impact the practices that will be deployed to impact employee engagement.  We need to establish connections so employees learn to appreciate such diversity and discover ways to embrace the new and fresh ideas.
 
If training and development programs are designed to have an impact on performance, then we must also recognize that human effort and expertise will also impact organizational performance (Ruona, 1999). With the new generation of workers, we have a chance to affect performance through transformational learning.  We need to rethink how new employees are on-boarded and how leaders are developed. Can we develop a program where shared learning and meaning can occur?
 
Take a look around and see just how social media and the speed of communication has brought our worlds together. Then consider how these concepts of socialization can be applied to connect your workforce. The fundamental concepts of socialization help organizations to pass on culture to employees and help them to be successful (Swanson and Holton, 2009). Socialization can occur through your already developed mentorship programs, with just a few minor tweaks. Traditionally, mentors have been assigned to new employees. What happens if we switch that model and initiate a reverse mentoring process, where newer employees can mentor your leaders?  

Reference
 Hurtienne, M. Ljubenko, B., Hurtienne, L. (2017). Theoretical foundations of human resource development: Conceptual visual expansion. Peer reviewed paper presented at the Academy of Human Resource Development Conference – 2017, San Antonio, TX, USA 2017.

Ruona, W.E.A. (1999). An investigation into the core beliefs underlying the profession of human   resource development, St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota Human Resource Development Research Center.

Swanson, R. A., & Holton III, E. F., (2009). Foundations of human resource development (2ed.). San Francisco, CA: Berret-Koehler. Publishers, Inc.

Matthew W. Hurtienne, Ph.D.,  is an Assistant Dean – Batterman School of Business, Concordia University Wisconsin


 
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