Bask Iyer, CIO for both VMware and Dell Technologies, has long thought about the value of different generations in the workplace. A diverse workforce may bring together a variety of thoughts and lifestyles, but what can different generations learn from each other to create a more vibrant workplace?
Learning New Tricks
“Older people can make the mistake of thinking they’ve seen everything before,” says Iyer, who himself is a baby boomer. “My generation needs to respect that digital natives actually do know what they are talking about. We should have a curiosity to learn from them, and include them, rather than assume we know everything.”
Iyer sees his experience, as well as the experience of his generation, as a potential friction point for continued growth in the workplace, especially in the face of large-scale digital transformation across the enterprise.
“We are in a moment of rapid change. I’m telling people, ‘You haven’t seen this before. You cannot extrapolate your experience and explain what is happening now, this is new learning,’” he says.
In a healthy workplace, older generations and younger ones are learning from each other. For example, millennials may enter the workforce with the necessary technical knowledge, but it may take years to develop the soft skills needed to succeed in a corporate environment. Mentorship from a more seasoned Generation X or baby boomer colleague might accelerate maturation in this area.
New Technologies and Generations
“Even for someone who has been doing this for as long as I have, I’m still taken aback at the speed of innovation today,” says Iyer, referring to the influx of new technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and self-driving cars. As a result, younger people are becoming increasingly sophisticated with technology, which presents a challenge for the enterprise to keep up.
“Today, employees expect to have the right tools to get their jobs done. However, most of the time, new employees coming in have had better experiences in their personal lives—the latest computers, better access, superior mobile devices, and an easier way to log on than what corporations are providing them,” says Iyer. “We don’t put enough emphasis on this aspect of the workplace, and it’s becoming critically important.”
Companies and CIOs should pay attention to the end-user experiences for their workforce to reduce turnover, improve employee satisfaction, and increase productivity.
The good news is that the multigenerational workforce provides growth opportunities for employees at all stages of their careers. Iyer says, “Whether you’re from a younger or older generation, it doesn’t matter. Employees interested in growing, no matter the age, will succeed. I tell people today to be young at heart and have a curious mind.”
For more on how to get the most out of a multigenerational workforce, watch the complete interview with Iyer.