HRA Blog

What Do You See Through Your Generational Lens?

Written by Cyndi Branciforte on .

Consider these multi-generational facts: In my home, we have three different generations – two Generation Xers (to which I belong), a Millennial and a member of the newly defined “Cloud Generation.” This means we have three generational groups represented, each expecting to coexist, contribute, administer and follow the house rules and receive recognition as part of our total family unit. While we have the same goals, each of us has formative values that were influenced by a different baseline of social, environmental, political and technological factors – – all of which are “normal,” but, different from each other.

Some believe these challenges stem simply from Millennials (those born generally between 1981-2000) who are upsetting the apple cart with their “new” ideas, expectations and/or ways of doing things. So I decided it was time to further explore the driving factors that influence generational issues in the workplace and expand my own understanding.

My research and participation in workshops reinforced what I am hearing from clients. Changing employee demographics will continue to powerfully impact the way we conduct business and interact with each other in the workplace. Consider the fact that by 2020 (a short four years from now), Millennials will make up 50% of the US workforce. These current and future employees were shaped by world events/socio-economic climate; technology and cultural values that are very different from prior generations.   It’s these personal development factors and events that change the expectations of each group and what they expect of and from the others.

Developing this greater contextual understanding of these workplace demographics is only the first step of building an efficient multi-generational workforce. It’s important to incorporate this expanded generational knowledge, sensitivity and awareness and look at your employee and leadership training and development through this new generational lens. Doing so will help eliminate misunderstandings of generational issues and provide clarity on why different generational groups approach work differently.

Some examples of looking at key training areas through a generational lens:

  • Leadership Development: To know your workforce and their values allows you to work more effectively and consider the unique motivators, perspectives and strengths of each generation.
  • Mentoring & Succession Planning: Both are perceived differently by different generations. What works for one won’t necessarily work for the other.
  • Employee Development and Career Progression: The way in which different generations regard career movement and promotion within an organization is one of the biggest gaps that exist in the workplace today.
  • Communication Literacy: Different generations have different comfort levels and expectations with communication tools and approaches.
  • Conflict Management and Stress Alleviation: Clarifying generational perspectives, expectations, motivators and values helps to eliminate workplace conflict and reduce stress.

Helping your organizational leaders and employees to better understand the different factors that influence the way they live and approach work as well as those that influence other generations will help to eliminate generational barriers that stand in the way of creating a culture of trust and acceptance. As with generations before them, Millennials and those that follow bring new ideas to the workplace that drive change and innovation. The quicker we help to eliminate generational misunderstandings, the quicker we can all enjoy the success!


Pay Attention to Me…Quietly

Written by Tiffany Aukema on .

So often throughout my career, I have heard the words, “You were quiet during the meeting. Is everything ok?” The truth is, I’m actually doing great. While you were talking, I was absorbing and processing. While you were brainstorming out loud, I was taking notes and thoughtfully considering your ideas. And at the same time, I was formulating ideas of my own from a different perspective. I’m not shy. I’m an introvert.

My second year in college, I was approached early in the semester by my professor of Shakespeare Literature, who told me that I was failing the class. Completely perplexed and panicked, I set up a time to meet with her and discuss my failing efforts. I hadn’t even turned in my first paper yet! I brought my paper with me and prepared myself for an uncomfortable conversation. What happened next was entirely different from what both my professor and I expected. We had a lively and interesting conversation about our readings. I offered my thoughts, opinions, and questions on the text. She loved my paper. See, she thought I wasn’t engaged. She thought I hadn’t been keeping up with the materials. In reality, I was on top of it. I was thinking, processing, learning, and organizing my thoughts. The reason I was failing was because in a world where we are expected to “live out loud,” I come across as shy and unengaged. Thus began my journey as a self-proclaimed introvert.

As a leader, have you ever mistaken the quiet person for the poor performer or the person who seems disassociated during meetings? You just might have an introvert on your team. We work in different ways and are often mysterious beings to those who like to “live out loud.” We are often made uncomfortable by our extroverted peers in the workplace. We like our quiet, we like personal relationships, and we like time to think.

Thankfully, there is much discussion on the power of introverts in the workplace today. Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” has given introverts a voice. Did you know that 50% of workers self-identify themselves as introverts and 96% of leaders self-identify themselves as extroverts? (Quiet Leadership Institute, We can’t ignore our quiet colleagues; nor should we. In Jenna Black’s recent blog on, she observes the different ways that introverts bring value to an organization. My favorite is: “Listening and observing is one of the quiet powers of an introvert. We love nothing more than to watch and listen so we can serve immense value that truly hits the mark.” In other words, we may not always speak up, but when we do, you can count on it being thoughtful.

When we act as coaches and look to put together teams, we need people who can play different positions. Introverts and extroverts can’t play the same role and shouldn’t be expected to, just as a goal tender isn’t expected to score goals. To be successful, you need a mix of both.

If you know or believe that you have introverts working for you, I encourage you consider them differently. Think about how you can maximize their unique strengths and balance their contributions with your extroverted players.

Consider these simple ideas to maximize your introverts:

  1. The open floor concept, which is very popular in the modern day workplace, can be stressful to your introverts. Consider providing them with a quiet and more private space to work. Telecommuting, on occasion, is an option.
  2. Introverts actually are social people! Introverts tend to prefer more intimate gatherings. Offer alternatives to the noisy happy hours to provide your introverts a way to socialize in a less noisy environment.
  3. Introverts need time to think. Scheduling back to back meetings can be draining to the introvert. Introverts prefer to structure their own day. They will get the work done, but might need to have more time to reflect and less time group brainstorming.
  4. If you want an introvert to share his or her thoughts during a meeting, be sure to give him or her time on the agenda. Introverts like to choose words carefully and don’t always enjoy being put on the spot to provide their best work.

As you look forward to planning your teams and motivating your staff, I challenge you to pay attention to the not-so-squeaky wheel. That quiet employee just might have the fresh idea or solution you are looking for.

Move Over, You’re in My Personal Space!

Written by Cyndi Branciforte on .

Last week I was confined to my home with my children and husband during the blizzard that pounded the east coast for over a week. I work from my home, which meant there were constant interruptions, requests for activity ideas and more!

Over time and through much self-reflection and personal analysis, I’ve come to realize the importance of having personal space and time alone. As a young adult, I assumed that staying busy with multiple social and networking engagements meant that I was excelling in life. Now I find that when I have a schedule packed with business and social activities I crave my alone time.

Great thinkers such as Jeff Bezos, Leonardo da Vinci and Katherine Graham valued and embraced time alone with great reward. However, in our busy lives, with the added distraction of social media, it is becoming much more difficult to find that quiet time and space to reflect.

In the US, many organizations encourage collaboration and shared workspaces.  Open floor plans and eliminating private offices, as Citigroup’s headquarters recently adopted, are becoming the norm.

While there are significant benefits to these open spaces such as greater social interaction to stimulate energy and enthusiasm, many still believe that it is in quiet reflection that optimal operations, creative ideas, and plans are formulated and clarified.

More and more research supports evidence that allowing your brain time to free think and be “quiet” adds great value to your role as a leader and individual contributor. In the recent Harvard Business Review blog, Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire advocated that solitary reflection feeds the creative mind.

Think of times when you’ve come up with a plan while jogging; had an “ah-ha” moment in the shower; or identified presentation topics when stuck in traffic. Kaufman and Gregoire offer that these are times when we are “letting the mind wander or dip into our deep storehouse of memories, ideas, and emotions — the brain’s default mode network is activated” and thus presenting creative, original ideas.

As my colleague Barbara Irwin recently wrote, employees should spend more time reflecting, meditating and allowing their minds to think freely. These strategies can all have a big impact on identifying strategies, clarifying problems, solidifying solutions.

As you personally explore the gift of silence and stillness consider the following:

Within your organization

  • Identify a quiet place in your organization such as a conference room or office space where employees can go to work and think without interruptions
  • Establish ground rules for quiet places and communicate them to employees so that they will understand, respect and value the gift of silence
  • Identify social gathering places for employees such as lunch rooms to encourage team building and idea sharing
  • Encourage telecommuting and/or flexible works schedules
  • Establish a culture, procedures and practices that values individual time for reflection in order to produce the best strategies and creative ideas
  • Incorporate wellness programs that include yoga, mediation and breathing techniques

As a leader

  • Listen more, talk less
  • Encourage team members to use their vacation time to refresh and rejuvenate themselves
  • Prior to a presentation, meeting or negotiation, spend time alone in order to crystalize your thoughts and purpose
  • When asking your team for creative ideas, ask for them in writing; or send the details of your request ahead of a brainstorming session to allow team members to reflect and strategize
  • Practice mindfulness by:
    • Scheduling time to sit and think without a purpose or agenda – – see where your mind takes you
    • Establishing a routine that incorporates a walk or time alone without a colleague, book, activity or agenda
    • Making an effort to put down or turn off your electronic devices to eliminate distractions
    • Giving yourself permission to say no once in a while

I realize the impact and value that spending time alone has had on both my personal and professional life and make sure to find time for myself. Most importantly, I don’t feel guilty for giving myself a time out in this hustle and bustle work life we live, and neither should you!


Mindfulness and Leadership – Go Hand in Hand?

Written by Barbara Irwin on .

I’ve been in the business world close to 30 years (ugh, let’s not think about that too much), and I’ve seen so many trends in leadership and management. Management by Walking Around (MBO), the 60 Second Manager, 360 leadership feedback, leadership assessment tools, just to name a few. Where does mindful leadership fit in? Would you even associate the two words together?

Often, when people think of mindfulness, they think about meditation, yoga, breathing techniques or some other practice, but they may not necessarily associate it with leadership and/or business in general.

I would contend that the two absolutely go hand-in-hand. We live in a fast-paced society where technology changes daily, new ideas are brought forth and sometimes discarded at breakneck speed. To be successful in our organizations, we have to not only keep up with the latest and greatest, but we’re tasked with being one step ahead of our competitors, all while having to pay attention to what’s happening in the moment.

Mindfulness is the idea that we should be present in the moment and be aligned with everything we are doing in our daily lives (both personally and professionally). On its face, it doesn’t feel like it belongs in our fast paced business lives, but it should be.

There are some great articles from Harvard Business Review that examine this subject matter that really spurred some thinking for me.

The qualities of a mindful leader – focus, clarity, creativity, compassion and courage – these are tremendous qualities that individuals need in order to cope with the many business challenges that leaders often face. It provides leaders the resolve to think through rapid obstacles in order to sustain long-term success

The idea that leaders are walking, journaling, taking time to reflect on the moment, may sound like a novel idea, but I would contend that truly great leaders take time to reflect and ask themselves some key questions about what they can do differently, what mistakes did they or their organization make and how they can learn from them. Taking even a brief moment from the hustle and bustle can make you a better leader.

Many organizations are now offering ‘mindfulness’ classes to their employees such as yoga, meditation and other positive programs that can have a great impact on their employees’ lives. I suggest that you take a moment and center yourself, leverage these principles into becoming a better leader. You’ll be surprised to find the impact they might have.

However you choose to do it, taking a moment to reflect, will have extraordinary impact on your ability to lead and make decisions in this fast paced business world. Namaste!

Job Descriptions – The New Year Resolution Worth Keeping

Written by Mary Lake on .

The first two weeks of January, 2016 are behind us. Many resolutions have been made, both personal and professional, in the hopes of making our lives healthier, happier and more organized. As you set off to tackle these resolutions, I would suggest an additional one that will have the same impact on your employees and organization – update the job descriptions for all of your employees.

Job descriptions play an integral role within an organization. They set expectations, goals and objectives, are crucial as recruiting tools and help potential candidates and all employees to clearly understand the responsibilities for their position within the organization. However, what I’ve discovered over the years is that too often job descriptions are only updated when a vacancy needs to be filled or there are compliance issues.

In today’s hectic and ever changing business environment, roles and responsibilities are constantly changing. New technology, organizational processes and procedures, and increases and decreases in staffing, all have an impact on a job function and expectation. It is essential that job descriptions are reviewed and evaluated on a regular basis to ensure that both employee and employer understand the exact parameters of each position and how it impacts the overall organization.

During 2015, HR Advisors Group assisted several clients with their review of organizational job descriptions and career paths in several different capacities. During these engagements, we offer three paths to our clients to update their job descriptions by taking into account the number of employees, the size of the HR staff and the resources available to the individual organization.

  1. Have supervisors and employees update job descriptions during employee reviews
  2. Charge HR with the responsibility to review and update all current job descriptions
  3. Outsource the responsibility for job description review and updating to a consultant

Let’s take a quick look at each option and examine the benefits and shortcomings inherent to each.

Have supervisors and employees update job descriptions during employee reviews – This is an excellent opportunity to go directly to the source. The employee has the chance to review and discuss in detail all responsibilities associated with the position and identify any changes that have occurred in the last year. The supervisor can examine these responsibilities and make appropriate changes. The disadvantage to this approach is that often reviews can be a delicate conversation and there isn’t enough time to discuss job descriptions as they have to address immediate concerns with an employee’s performance.

Charge HR with the responsibility to review and update all current job descriptions – Today’s HR professionals are familiar with creating comprehensive job descriptions and career paths. Their involvement ensures that they contain language that meets all legal requirements. This option does require HR to connect with employees and supervisors to confirm any adjustments to the job description due to organizational changes in processes and technology. This option can require significant resources dependent on the size of the organization. In addition, the timeliness of completing the initiative will be dependent on the other responsibilities competing for the HR representative’s time.  A solution would be to make this a “goal” for the individual HR representative or HR Department.

Outsource the responsibility for job description review and update to a consultant – When the size of the organization and the time requirements for a thorough review of job descriptions require more time and resources than is available internally, working with an outside consultant is often a fiscally sound option for reviewing job descriptions. A competent, outside HR consultant will have deep experience with writing job descriptions that contain the legal language necessary for a comprehensive description. The consultant will be able to review current organizational processes and procedures and identify positions where they will need to be updated. After an initial review of the job descriptions, the HR consultant can meet with employees to confirm any changes or additions to the job requirements. Upon completion of the updated job descriptions, the HR consultant can review the changes with a member of the HR Department for accuracy.

Regardless of which option is chosen, it is vital for any organization to go through a periodic review of job descriptions. This exercise will ensure that all job descriptions are accurate and that the current and future needs of the organization are met.

Unwrapping the True Meaning of Respect in the Workplace

Written by Tiffany Aukema on .

I’ve spent the last several months facilitating respect in the workplace training to various organizations, discussing strategies to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination. I’ve extracted some incredibly rich lessons from the employees and managers who participated in these trainings which I believe are useful guidance for HR professionals moving into the New Year.

Every training was kicked off by asking a simple question, “What does respect mean to you?” The majority of time I was met with silence and blank stares. While occasionally someone would break the ice by launching into Aretha Franklin’s Respect, most of the time the participants would look uncomfortably at one another unsure how to answer.

At first blush, it seems like a simple response, but I completely understand the hesitancy of the participants or the perceived variance in responses. However, once the conversation started, there was one simple definition that we could all agree on – treat others as you wish to be treated.

As the conversation transitioned to diversity and its impact in a workplace, we discussed different work styles, educations, family or cultural upbringing, and personal and professional goals. It got me thinking…should we really be treating others exactly as we wish to be treated?

Aside from the shared interest in the organization we work for, most of our coworkers are very different and don’t actually want or need the same things out of their professional careers. For example, consider the colleague who is dedicated and hard-working, but is also quiet and somewhat introverted in the office.  Would she want to be publicly praised during a staff meeting and asked to speak in front of the group spontaneously?  Probably not.  On the other hand, you may have colleagues who thrive in the spotlight and are motivated by public recognition.

As managers and employees, we must take a hard look and evaluate what motivates our staff and colleagues. Consider everyone’s differences and how can we build strengths from these differences.

Through all of the extensive discussions on this topic, I have learned that respect is really about being aware and sensitive of each other’s differences. It doesn’t mean we should completely disregard the “Golden Rule,” but rather challenge each other to think beyond and treat everyone as unique individuals. Sometimes, this means treating others a little differently than how we would prefer to be treated

As we close out 2016, consider making a New Year’s resolution of treating everyone with individual kindness and respect. This “twist” on the Golden Rule can help you build stronger relationships in the workplace and, in turn, keep your colleagues, managers, and peers motivated, happy, and energized throughout the year and serve as a foundation for a truly respectful workplace.