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Innovation Central

One of the most dynamic sessions at this year’s Health & Benefits Leadership Conference was the “Ideas and Innovators” session, in which experts from a variety of fields give five-minute presentations summarizing their thoughts on what HR leaders should do differently with regard to benefits.

Here’s a sampling of what some of them had to say: Lindsey Pollak, a millennial workplace expert and spokeswoman for The Hartford insurance company, called on companies to encourage mentoring between baby boomers and millennials. “Ninety percent of the millennials we surveyed said they appreciated guidance from boomers,” she said. “Millennials are digital natives, so they can mentor boomers in the use of technology.”

Millennials want the ability to customize their benefits, she said: “Millennials weren’t given teddy bears as kids; they were taken to Build-a-Bear workshops — they’re used to having things tailored for them.”

The same Hartford survey found that 70 percent of millennials consider themselves leaders, whether in their families, workplaces and communities. Companies can harness this leadership spirit for health and wellness, said Pollak — yet must keep in mind that millennials have also proven to be slow to sign up for benefits such as disability insurance. “Millennials aren’t taking advantage of these benefits — you must reach them on this.”

Brian Poger, founder and CEO of consulting firm Benefitter, urged employers to consider getting out of the business of providing health benefits (perhaps an odd thing to hear at a conference devoted to employee benefits). “Most employee raises are being absorbed by rising healthcare costs,” he said. “Why not offer cash instead of health benefits?”

Poger cited a McKinsey survey that found 85 percent of employees would stay with their employer even if they stopped offering health benefits. Many employers are charging signficantly higher premiums for spousal and family coverage or dropping it altogether, he said, which can be a major hardship for families earning the U.S. median household income of $51,000 a year. “Giving employees cash to purchase a family policy on the exchanges may be a better deal for them,” he said.

Lexie Dendrinelis, health promotion and wellness leader at manufacturing firm Barry-Wehmiller Cos., discussed how her company has made leadership and culture — rather than exercise and eating well — the centerpiece of health and wellness. “People can’t focus on their personal health if they’re stressed out about an unsafe workplace,” she said. “Building trustworthy leaders and cultures is the best intervention.”

At Barry-Wehmiller, the company has committed to building a “caring culture” where “we are committed to sending our friends home safe, well and fulfilled.” The company uses incentives and rewards to highlight positive behaviors and takes a “holistic approach” to caring for its employees and families, said Dendrinelis. “We are looking at creating a thriving culture that will bring down healthcare costs.”

 

Study: Diversity Not So Good for Creativity

After all the positive press that diversity in the workplace has been getting over the years, including here at HRE, a surprising study published in a recent issue of the Academy of Management Journal presenting an actual negative caught my eye.

dv496065aConducted by Prof. Roy Y.J. Chua of the Harvard Business School, it suggests — make that shows — that creativity in multicultural settings is highly vulnerable to what Chua calls “ambient cultural disharmony.”

In three distinct studies, the overall research finds that the presence of conflict or tension between two people of different cultures — whether the cause of strife is culturally based or simply due to personal antipathy — diminishes the ability of others to think creatively in multicultural ways, according to the research report. The paper, “The Costs of Ambient Cultural Disharmony: Indirect Intercultural Conflict in Social Environment Undermine Creativity” (subscription/registration required), appears in the December/January issue of AMJ.

“Creativity is not necessarily about producing a completely new idea or product that never existed before [but] oftentimes involves combining existing ideas in new ways that are useful toward solving practical problems,” Chua says. “To solve problems creatively in a global multicultural context, problem-solvers need to first see non-obvious connections among ideas from different cultures … . Ambient cultural disharmony motivates people to shut down the search for connections and patterns involving ideas from different cultures because they have come to believe that such intercultural connections are not feasible.”

How much of a problem could this be, going forward, in the global marketplace?

“It’s not clear how serious a problem this is,” Chua says, “since this is the first work to show creativity loss resulting from ambient cultural disharmony. Yet, the fact that intercultural conflict affects so many more people than those directly involved [a key finding of the research] and diminishes something as critical to organizational success as creativity suggests that what this research has uncovered is more than a minor drawback of diversity.”

A Comprehensive Cancer Guide for Employers

With workforces getting older and older as boomers stay on longer and longer, an annoucement like this was bound to happen sooner or later.

78770849-- cancer at workThe National Business Group on Health just got there first.

In announcing last week its release of An Employer’s Guide to Cancer Treatment and Prevention, the NBGH called it “the industry’s first publication of its kind” and a culmination of three years of work in conjunction with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

“Today, more than ever, employers are facing the growing impact of cancer in the workplace,” NBGH President and CEO Helen Darling says in her organization’s release about the initiative. “With significant gains in cancer survival rates and most cancer survivors staying at work during their treatment or returning to work after their treatment, employers need a comprehensive benefits plan to ensure that their current strategies to address cancer in the workplace complement the needs of their employees.

“Cancer casts a wide net,” she adds, “affecting not only those diagnosed with the disease, but also family members, friends, managers and co-workers. The impact on a company’s culture can be profound.”

The Guide provides technical assistance to help employers design, implement and monitor the performance of their cancer-related strategies. It contains a series of six tools with guidelines and recommendations based on published research and reports, including the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology.

According to the NBGH, the tools are designed to coincide with the various steps in the employer-benefit life cycle, including plan design, vendor and program management, enrollment and communications, plan administration, and vendor and program evaluation. It also addresses issues across the continuum of cancer care, including medical, pharmacy and behavioral benefits; short-term disability; family medical leave; employee assistance programs; and health improvement programs, says the release.

Robert W. Carlson, CEO of NCCN, describes the guide as a “groundbreaking toolkit [that] empowers employers to be proactive in their approach to dealing with the needs of their employees as they deal with their own or a loved one’s cancer.”

Nothing to analyze or poke holes in here. Strictly a good-news story simply worth sharing.

 

 

Female Senators Have Mentoring Figured Out

A most interesting piece in Time magazine this week about female senators — specifically, the ones who kick-started the end of the governmental shutdown by taking the lead in a male-dominated Senate and finding a way to resolve its stalemate over spending, the debt ceiling and Obamacare.

74879113-- female leaders; Time MagWhat’s really worth noting in the story are the special networks and practices in place — some more formal than others — that these senators have set up over the years to encourage, support, mentor and coach newcomers to their female-politicians’ ranks. This foundation of support established by and for female senators even crosses political aisles.

… the private gatherings among the sisterhood are a source of both power and  perspective. They occur every few weeks or months, depending on the need. Venues include the senators’ homes — and occasionally the unlikely confines of the Capitol’s Strom Thurmond Room, a space named for one of the chamber’s most  notorious womanizers. … Once a year, the group also dines with the female Supreme Court justices. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Select Committee on Intelligence, holds regular dinners for women in the  national-­security world. Even the female chiefs of staff and communications directors have started regular get-togethers of their own. … It’s a diverse group, ranging in age from Feinstein, who is 80, to [Sen. Kelly] Ayotte, [R-New Hampshire], who is 45. Feinstein makes herself available to every new female senator who wants advice on how she runs her offices.

… Close political alliances have developed among several of the women. [California Sen. Barbara] Boxer has taken a special interest in Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren — both are  liberal firebrands. Democrat Claire McCaskill, who hails from a red state and faced a tough re-election campaign last year, made a point of courting Republican friendships early on. Sometimes, those friendships trump party … .”

Richard Wellins, senior vice president of Bridgeville, Pa.-based Development Dimensions International, clued me in to this story. Before we launched into an interview (for an upcoming news analysis), he wanted me to know about it, and what it says — not only about the power of women to find common ground and bring opposing parties together, but about their power in establishing the kinds of systems and practices their followers need if they’re going to survive in a still-hugely-male-dominated political beehive.

“They’re practicing a lot of things around mentoring that corporations aren’t doing” and probably should be, he told me.

After reading it, I had to agree. Employers would do well to tear some pages out of our female senators’ notebooks on how to help high-potential, high-performing women progress and survive in pressure-cooker environments. (This news analysis I wrote a while back for HREOnline explores just far we still have to go in helping female top talent succeed.) Only in these top, richly deserved leadership positions will their unique abilities really stand a chance of making a meaningful impact on the business.

Just how meaningful? How about something on par with what Time describes as the female senators getting “the lion’s share of the credit for starting the process to break the weeks-long stalemate … “??

I reached out to Ember Reichgott Junge for her take on the story and the subject of the strengths women bring to government. Here’s what the former Minnesota state senator, author of Zero Chance of Passage:  The Pioneering Charter School Story and an outspoken advocate for women in politics had to say:

Research from organizations like the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University  has shown for years that, when women are elected to office, they are more collaborative, more inclusive in their leadership and more willing to compromise to achieve their goals. We have seen this in state legislatures over the years, but not as much at the federal level because only recently have women reached a critical mass in the U.S. House and Senate.

I personally experienced this [female political edge] in 1991 in the Minnesota legislature as author of the first charter school law in the nation, which prevailed by only three votes over intense opposition. The bipartisan champions were all women — I was joined, as the Democratic senate bill author, by Democratic House author Rep. Becky Kelso and Republican co-author Sen. Gen Olson.  Chartering would not have passed without significant bipartisan support led by this trio of women.

There is another lesson from this story. Frankly, I thought we failed when the compromised version of the bill was passed. Minnesota chartering advocates were deeply worried that the bill was so compromised that no schools would be chartered. We know now that, without compromise, no bill would have passed and chartering might never have happened. Two years later, the legislature improved the law, making it a model for the nation. The lesson here? Compromise is not defeat. As former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe wrote in her book, Fighting for Common Ground, ”compromise is not a capitulation of one’s principles.  Rather, it is recognition that not getting all that you may want may be the only way to acquire enough votes to achieve most of what you seek … .”

Here’s another example. When I was elected to the Minnesota state senate in 1982, there were only 10 women state senators of 66. When I retired from the senate in 2000, there were 22 women senators — of both parties. Along the way, some interesting things happened. During the early 1990s, an era when domestic violence and sexual harassment were not taken seriously, women of both parties banded together to propose and unanimously support a resolution for “zero tolerance for violence.” It passed overwhelmingly. Around the same time, the senate women saw the need for investment in early childhood services and crime prevention. We organized a senate presentation in which we asked several criminal offenders to talk about their abuse as children and how it impacted their lives. In just two years, women changed the entire agenda of the Minnesota senate. Instead of spending one dollar for crime prevention for every four dollars spent locking people up, we insisted that spending of new dollars for those purposes be reversed. That year, we succeeded in convincing our male colleagues to spend at least $2 for crime prevention for every new dollar spent for incarceration. We also successfully proposed the creation of an Early Childhood Committee. Women literally changed the agenda of the senate by moving issues known only as ‘women’s issues’ to a top priority that every senate candidate extolled on literature in the next election.

My experience with my women colleagues underscores the fact that we are relationship-builders. We are problem solvers.  It is not about ideas that are right or wrong.  It is about finding common ground and building new possibilities.  It is about finding the ‘next right answer.’

My public service experiences, of course, are from 1983-2000. In the last decade, we’ve seen the emergence of strong ideologies in both parties.  We have a very narrow ‘middle’ now. On the extremes of the parties, ideology will trump the ‘next right answer.’ But in the center, innovative solutions will emerge. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, my long-time friend, is such an example.  She has maintained course in the middle, building relationships with members of both parties. She intentionally asked [Republican] U.S. Sen. Snowe to be her mentor. As more women like Sens. Klobuchar and Snowe are elected around the country, the more we will move back to governing rather than finger-pointing.  Women, I believe, will lead the way.

These are the same leadership qualities that serve women well in the business world.  In the past, these qualities were viewed as weaknesses, making the woman leader appear indecisive. But as more women ascend to CEO positions, especially in the nonprofit and foundation worlds, they are accomplishing significant change. Collaboration, inclusiveness, problem-solving, and civility are now regarded as leadership strengths.

Silent Majority Speaks Out

We’ve all experienced it, many of us probably more times than we’d like. There we are, sitting in a meeting, when all of a sudden we hear an annoying ringtone. It could be Beethoven’s 5th or something far worse. A second or two passes before one of your colleagues pulls out his or her iPhone or Android to take a call, scurrying to the door with an excuse-me look on his or her face. Not a good moment for that person or for his or her colleagues.

Worse yet, that person might be us.

158344061Uncivil behavior in the workplace can take many forms, but a case could easily be made that the misuse of smartphones and other mobile devices ranks somewhere near the top of the list of most repeated workplace annoyances.

It’s therefore no surprise to find more and more researchers studying these behaviors, with the latest coming from Peter W. Cardon of the Marshall School of Business (at the University of Southern California) and colleagues at Howard University. Their research, published yesterday in the Business Communications Quarterly, is reportedly one of the first studies (if not the first) to look at how attitudes toward these behaviors break down across things such as gender, age and region.

As might be expected, the findings confirm that most people consider such behaviors unacceptable, with 76 percent saying checking texts or emails is a no-no at business meetings and 87 percent of people saying that answering a call is rarely or never acceptable in such a setting.

Even at more informal business lunches, most (66 percent) consider writing or sending text messages rude.

If you notice more women shaking their heads in disgust than men, there’s probably good reason. The researchers — who questioned 550 full-time working professionals earning $30,000 a year or more — found men were nearly twice as likely as women to consider mobile-phone use at a business lunch acceptable. (More than 59 percent of men said it was OK to check text messages at a power lunch, compared to 34 percent of women who thought checking texts was appropriate.)

Before you reach for your silence button, though, it’s also worth mentioning that the findings offer a  glimmer of hope to those who think these behaviors aren’t all that bad.

Younger professionals were nearly three times as likely as older professionals to think tapping out a message over a business lunch is appropriate—66 percent of people under 30 said texting or emailing was OK, compared to just 20 percent of those aged 51 to 65.”

Which raises the troubling (at least to me) question: How different might things look 20 years from now?

Just How Involved Should Parents Be at Work?

Not like we haven’t written about the moms and dads of young employees — primarily millennials, born between 1981 and the early 2000s — inserting themselves into key moments of their children’s work lives, starting with the hiring process.

178760957--dad and son at workBut this recent piece in the Wall Street Journal (subscription site) went beyond what I knew — or what we’ve reported on — when it comes to steps employers are taking to encourage this trend.

The story mentions Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual, which regularly invites parents of its college-aged interns to open houses and encourages managers to send notes home to them when their kids reach their sales goals. They’re even allowed to come along to interviews and hear details of job offers made to their sons and daughters.

It mentions Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Inc., which recently held its second annual “Take Your Parents to Work Day,” bringing in more than 2,000 moms and dads; and St. Louis-based car-rental firm Enterprise Holdings Inc., which provides information packets for the parents of interns and new employees in its management-training program and lets the parents listen in when managers describe job offers.

Interestingly, though, it also mentions a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers that finds only 6 percent of recent U.S. college graduates want their parents to receive a copy of their offer letters and only 2 percent want their parents to receive a copy of their performance review. And that’s well below the global norms of 13 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

I don’t know. Sounds to me like our kids are more ready to cut the cords and grow up than their parents want them to be.

But hey, who am I to criticize? I’m one of those parents. I text/talk regularly with my 32-year-old and 29-year-old sons — a third-grade teacher (and father of two) and mechanical engineer, respectively. I attend their adult-league baseball games like a sports mom who refuses to unhand her pom-poms. I’m still invited to their Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles tailgate parties — well, some of them.

I am keenly aware of this special bond of respect, regard and closeness that exists between many folks my age and their children — who, let’s face it, absolutely were raised as extra-special people who we would go to the ends of the earth for (and with, if we had that kind of travel money).

Granted, I would never stand in the back of the classroom while my older son talks to parents at back-to-school night. I would never ask to see either one’s performance review. (My guess is some of the parents asking for that kind of transparency were the more outspoken — often critical — ones I’d see at back-to-school nights and on soccer-field sidelines.)

No, I’m no “stagehand” for my kids. But I sure do ask about their jobs and lives, and they sure do share. I still know their friends, and their friends’ parents (even some of my daughter-in-law’s). I consider myself blessed to have had my children in a generation when both sets of dreams were shared — not kept secret, ridiculed or ignored.

Is this really a growing workplace trend? Should employers really be giving it wings? Will — and should — moms and dads really be inserting themselves into more and more work-related events crucial to their precious progeny? I suppose this could become a future workplace norm, especially if the generations to follow remain as committed to this mutual-respect, mutual-involvement parent-child experience.

But I’m thinking it will eventually abate. Demographic behavior traits change with the ages. Priorities change too. As my grown sons tend more to their own and include me when they can, I find myself happily and healthily letting go, refocusing on the grandkids, proud of the men they’ve become and the jobs they’ve secured — with my help and without it.

Perfect Time to Celebrate Older Workers

older businessman -- 134075082What better time to personally invite you to read our Sept. 16 Human Resource Executive® cover story, “The Age Factor,” than today, the beginning of National Employ Older Workers Week, a week established back in the Eisenhower era to increase awareness of this labor segment and develop strategies to tap it.

And what better time to honor such a week than now, with the ranks of older workers growing to historic numbers — well beyond what anyone could have imagined during the Eisenhower administration.

This post on the website of the Department of Labor, host and sponsor of the dedicated week, says that by 2014, 41 percent of Americans 55 or older will be employed, making up more than 21 percent of the U.S. labor force. (For more information on National Employ Older Workers week, this DOL release from 2005 and this 2010 announcement from then Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis should bring you fully up to speed.)

Our cover story, featuring companies that are finding ways to effectively work with and benefit from this growing segment of the workforce, quotes from a 2012 Wells Fargo Retirement Survey that finds 70 percent of middle-class Americans say they’ll work in retirement, with one-third believing they will need to “work until at least 80″ in order to live comfortably in their post-work years.

If that’s not scary enough, this survey report in CNN Money says it now appears one in eight workers worldwide will never retire. I guess we’re talking about keeling over mid-sentence or mid-phone call at their desks.

The DOL post says this influx may not be such a bad thing: “The Committee on Economic Development indicates that employers rate older workers high on characteristics such as judgment, commitment to quality, attendance and punctuality.” But not sure it had working to death in mind. (Obviously, avoiding such an “unrealistic reality” will depend on additional approaches by employers and their HR leaders as this growing sector continues to age.)

In the meantime, couldn’t hurt to reflect on your company’s policies and programs — especially this week — to ensure you’re doing everything you can to reap the benefits of your older workers, for as long as they’re willing to stay or you’re willing to keep them.

A few things to consider along these lines might be whether they’re being properly managed, especially by managers their children’s ages. This story I wrote two years ago probes this particular problem, as do many of the additional web-enhanced features we ran with it at the time.

I guess you won’t know what your workers 55 or older are contributing — or what obstacles they’re facing trying to contribute — if you don’t carefully assess the situation. You might find there’s no problem at all.

As Jerold Ramos, AlliedBarton’s director of strategic recruiting, put it in a release about his company’s support for older workers and this designated week, “experienced workers are essential to today’s workforce, and fit very well into the security industry. They are flexible, punctual, trainable and mature.”

I would add experienced, knowledgable and willing to share their skills and perspectives with anyone and everyone if doing so would be of some help.

How, in my humble opinion, do I know this? I’m 56.

Some Demographic ‘Sticking Points’ to Conquer

121199603-- age demographicsCame across this interesting take on just how frustrated workers — all workers — are today. Haydn Shaw, a speaker and generational expert, has a new book out, Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart. In it, he itemizes the 12 different sources of tension troubling the different demographics trying to work together for the betterment and success of their organizations. As his release says:

Frustrations have never measured higher in the workplace. Some blame the recession and the fact that there are now more hours to work and less pay. The cost of living and healthcare is rising, but not salaries. Others see how generational conflicts are lowering productivity in organizations as misunderstandings, lack of teamwork and communication pull teams apart, leaving team members at a loss for resolving issues across the generations. Those same generational tensions show up at home as well.

These tensions are caused by four different generations working side by side in the workplace for more than a decade: the Traditionalists (born before 1945), the baby boomers (born 1945–1965), Gen X (born 1965–1980), and the millennials (born 1980–2000). Time has not solved the issues created by multiple generations in the workplace; it has only magnified them.

His release didn’t go into much detail on just what those tensions are, so I called him to at least get the full rundown. Here are those 12 “Sticking Points” that cause conflict between the four generations: communication, decision-making, dress code, feedback, fun at work, knowledge transfer, loyalty, meetings, policies, respect, training and work ethic.

Some are fairly intuitive — dress codes, for instance. All you have to do is imagine someone in pumps and someone in flip flops walking into the same meeting. And, pondering communication, we’ve heard plenty about social media driving more of a wedge between the generations than bringing them together. And respect might conjure up the different age groups’ views on schedules and start times.

But rather than conjecture, I asked Shaw to expound himself on the top four — in his mind — that come up most often and what employers can do about them. Here’s what he had to say:

On work ethic – The farm and the factory shaped the expectations of Traditionalists (born before 1945) and baby boomers (born 1946-1964) that the workday started early in the morning and you put in your time. My father-in-law used to say, ‘Give a full day’s work for a fair day’s pay.’ But as work moves from a job with set work hours to service and knowledge-driven projects  that can be performed 24/7, the definition of work ethic must move with it. Create clear work standards and then measure your employees by what they produce, not by the hours they work.

On communication — For those of us who have spent most of our careers communicating through memos or e-mail, mobile technology and access to Facebook is a nice bonus, but not essential. We have trouble understanding how big it is for millennials. Cisco did a study in 2011 of 2,200 college students and young professionals worldwide to see what they wanted from their employers. They found that 56 percent of college students globally would turn down a job offer from an organization that banned access to social media (or they would ignore the policy). If your organization is going to succeed with millennials, you’re going to have to get familiar with the tools that they can’t live without. And then get clear as to when to put them down and make eye contact.

On respect – Millennials are redefining respect and causing teams to get stuck around the questions, ‘How long do you have to pay your dues before you can say what you think or put new ideas on the table?’ ‘How long before you don’t have to do the junk jobs that no one wants to do?’ Employers need to get their people talking about the different ways each generation answers these questions so people will quit assuming everyone defines respect the same way. Then they will quit taking personally what another generation doesn’t mean personally. That breakthrough idea allows us to leverage generational know-how rather than complain about the differences.

On loyalty — Getting unstuck around loyalty has two parts. First, we need to quit stereotyping and name-calling. To do that, we have to help the generations get a clear definition of loyalty that fits current economic and work realities. If we don’t, older generations will always think younger generations have a moral defect because they’re not as loyal as the older generations, and the younger generations will think the older generations don’t understand the new economy. Second, we must shift our energy away from criticizing other generations’ definitions of loyalty and toward discovering ways to make our organizations better so all generations want to stay longer.

“When we understand why another generation thinks the way they do,” he says, “we are much more likely to appreciate the differences and speak their language.”

Granted, much of what he says underscores points others have made and stories we have published, but I like the way he says it.

Coincidentally, this byline that just went live yesterday on our website, HREOnline, offers another – maybe even more probing — look into what goes wrong when managers simply can’t connect with employees around what’s important to each side. The title kind of says it all: “Dear HR: Why I am Leaving.”

 

More Proof that Younger, Older Workers are Aligned

I came across this study from Randstad US  the other day that speaks to something I wrote a feature about back in our mid-October digital edition — that younger and older workers are much more closely aligned in temperament, taste and priorities than either demographic group is with Gen Xers.

151547584 -- old and young together, betterMind you, the studies are considering two different groups of older workers, baby boomers and mature workers, but the general finding seems to be that millennials’ goals and needs at work mirror those of their parents’ generation (and even the next one back) more than they do the goals and needs of those who came just before them.

In Randstad’s “Engagement Study,” it finds employees in two demographically opposed age brackets (millennials, born 1979 to 1994, and mature workers, born before 1946) share a common vocational verdict: They both expressed a more positive outlook on their careers than other demographics surveyed.

In fact, 89 percent of mature workers and 75 percent of millennials say they enjoy going to work every day, and a majority of both groups feel inspired to do their best at work (95 percent of mature respondents and 80 percent of millennials). These workers also perceive a higher morale in the workplace than other age groups, with 69 percent of millennials and 64 percent of mature workers finding a positive energy at work, compared to just a 53-percent average among other groups, including Gen X.

Similarly, in my October Q&A with talent-management and demographic expert Sylvia Ann Hewlett titled “Rethinking Demographics,” she presents her case for millennials and baby boomers (born 1946 through 1964) being cut from the same cloth when it comes to their interests in flexible schedules and social connections, their commitments to bettering the planet and finding meaning in their work, and even the fact that they both value loyalty to their employers.

On the contrary, says Hewlett — whose research into this was published in a Harvard Business Review article, ”How Gen Y & Boomers Will Reshape Your Agenda” — Gen Xers (born 1965 through 1978) are the lone group among the three. She calls them “the generation of hard knocks … hit hardest by two or three major recessions [and] burned in underwater mortgages with young children.”

Both Hewlett and Jim Link, managing director for Randstad US, say companies need to do a much better job incorporating these similarities and differences into engagement and talent-management strategies. Link says it’s “critical for companies [to] dive into what engagement and retention drivers are aligned and not aligned [in order to] identify and prioritize the larget opportunities to improve employee engagement … .”

Such as, you might ask? For one, Hewlett suggests partnering young and old in a kind of training-up-and-training-down program. Another might involve sending boomers and millennials out together on volunteer projects.

Both say initiating programs with demographic alignment in mind will reap rewards you can’t even imagine till you try.

Less Gender Diversity in HR than You Think

In case you thought women in HR have been conquering the “glass ceiling” more than in other departments just by their sheer numbers in the profession, think again.

dv330037bAt least that’s what rearchers at Los Angeles-based Korn/Ferry say, based on their latest data from the Korn/Ferry 500 CHRO database, which tracks the professional moves of about 500 chief human resource officers throughout the world.

The data — which is for internal purposes only and, therefore, not public — finds 58 percent of CHROs are male, according to the company’s emailed release.

“Forty years ago, HR was considered mostly an administrative function,” the release says. “For that reason, many women would often be promoted from secretaries to human resource professionals — supporting the myth that women dominate the top ranks of HR. An even bigger myth is that HR is a leader in gender diversity in the C-suite.”

Kim Shanahan, a senior client partner and managing director of the Human Resources Center of Expertise at Korn/Ferry, says that, while there are many exceptional females in the function, the facts do, indeed, show that Fortune 500 CHROs are actually primarily male. She goes on:

There is much written about the glass ceiling for CEOs and other executive leaders. For HR executives, the demands on leaders are the same as other executive functions – kids, family, intense work schedule, travel, etc. However, showing ambition like their functional counterparts sometimes goes against the nature of the function.

That said, many of the best HR executives are bold, business-oriented, and are able to connect with all levels of the organization and all types of people. They know when to sit back and when to step up. Females typically have incredible capabilities across these areas but can sometimes take too much of a back seat when a front seat may be required.

Boards and CEOs need to continuously require diverse slates of candidates — internal and/or external – for all leadership openings. This includes ensuring that females are included in all slates for succession opportunities.

There is intense pressure for CEOs to have diverse executive teams and most are working diligently to ensure they meet these requirements. At the same time, they are also facing intense complexity in terms of their businesses. They are putting a premium on those with strong change-management [skills and experience] and ideally a track record of working closely with a board of directors. Therefore, some of the dynamics in terms of the CHRO numbers are in direct conflict – the supply/demand curve is a little off.”

For further discussion’s sake, here’s our HRE cover story from March 2012, “The Feminization of HR,” that, while concurring women aren’t necessarily dominating HR’s top spots, makes a solid argument for that changing soon, based simply on the plethora of women in the HR-leadership pipeline.

And here is a recent Leader Board post by Senior Editor Andrew R. McIlvaine about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wanting to start what she calls “Lean In Circles” at workplaces throughout the country to help women fight the often-invisible, often-internal barriers impeding their ultimate top-leadership climbs.

She has this to say about women being their own worst enemies in her soon-to-be-released book, Lean In:

We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in. [The result is that] men still run the world.”

I guess, going by Korn/Ferry’s data, you can count HR as still part of that world … at least for now.