Illustrations by Paul Davis, London, UK

Learning  From Differences

by Lisa Bull

Older, more experienced workers want to know that what they bring to the workplace is respected and valued, and that organizations look at their experience as an asset and not a liability. This generation has worked hard for many years and has persevered in a career. Younger employees often look for a workplace that values work-life balance and provides many options for their work schedule and approach. In my opinion, managers can use the strengths of each generation for the benefit of the organization by recognizing, appreciating and harnessing their different strengths in support of organizational goals and objectives. All generations have the skill and ability to deal with today’s work challenges, but one of the biggest differences is in the way that the generations want to be recognized and rewarded. For example, millennials have a need for frequent and regular feedback, and workplace flexibility is one of the most important qualities they look for.


Familiar Patterns Versus New Trends

by Liz Wiseman

When work necessitates high levels of physical skill (such as for surgeons, athletes and entertainers), deep experience enhances performance. However, in the knowledge economy, particularly in fast-cycle industries (such as technology) and those facing disruptive change (such as education and healthcare), experience can be a liability and being new and unencumbered by past knowledge can be an asset. In my opinion, experienced workers are skillful at marshaling resources, finding simple solutions and focusing on solving the right problem. However, experienced workers can easily become comfortable and begin to settle into familiar patterns and thus can misdiagnose new problems and fail to see important trends. Long-experienced workers are well suited to high-stakes work, where a single mistake can be game-ending, and to situations where there is only one right way of doing something, while inexperienced workers are well suited to new business ventures. For me, new professionals stepping into management roles have an opportunity to redefine the role of leader and have a liberating effect on the workforce. Newcomers will also bring a belief that leadership can surface from anywhere and not just trickle down from the top.


The Youngest, the Smartest

by Praveen Puri

The upside of experienced workers is that they are very productive. They can solve issues quickly. The downside is that they may be resistant to change, reluctant to try a different approach, and they may not be familiar with more effective methods that are used outside the company. Usually, a long career in the same business or industry can be considered a surplus value because the worker experiences how different companies deal with the same challenges and is more likely to know the most effective methods for accomplishing tasks. An experienced worker is faster and more efficient when working with current methods and processes, but a younger worker is more open to change and newer methods. During my career, I have seen and worked with both kinds of long-experienced workers. I have seen older workers who are priceless assets because they have mastered complex software applications and processes. They solve issues quickly, and frequently serve as mentors to younger workers, helping them to accelerate their learning. On the other hand, I have seen workers who are resistant to new methods and new technology. For example, the pattern is reversed for mobile technology  – the younger workers master it quickly and painlessly while the long-term workers struggle to learn and incorporate it.


The More Experience, the More Value

by Steve McKee

The advantages of a long career at the same company are many. Once someone masters the systems, culture and mission of a company they can increasingly focus on adding value. Plus, in an age where employee loyalty seems to have all but disappeared, someone who is committed over the long haul to a company can earn a great deal of trust, which can open up longer-term opportunities for them, such as equity. If there is a downside, I suppose it would be getting stale or bored – but that’s a choice, not an inevitability. However, a long career in the same business industry is not a guarantee of reliability and expertise, for tenure can also be a function of mediocrity and/or the ability to play internal politics. But the longer one works in a single sector or business, the deeper one’s expertise is likely to be. Which means the greater the potential value one can provide. Young workers tend to have more energy and enthusiasm. Experienced workers tend to add more value. In my opinion, the optimum setup is to have an appropriate mix of each. As in sports, a business can’t become a dynasty without employing both seasoned stars and promising rookies. The more experience I gain the more value I can add and the more confident I am in my ability to add value, which makes my clients more confident in me. We all win.


Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Fall 2014