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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

How effective intergenerational communication could neutralize the Great Resignation (and teacher shortage crisis)

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Retention tends to be dealt with through a reactive lens. The impact of a leader staying or the ripple effect of a leader leaving a legacy behind are both invaluable to the long-term trajectory for any organization. This column examines a suggested approach for better retaining leaders in the K12, nonprofit, and social impact sectors.

Intergenerational communication: Is my voice valued?

While the millennial generation (born roughly between 1982 and 2002) continues to lead the statistics of the Great Resignation, which began pre-pandemic, the K-12 teacher and school leader shortage crisis continues to be a glaring data point when analyzing trends across sectors most impacted by the Great Resignation.

The efforts are being made by K-12 districts to pivot as succinctly and rapidly as possible in efforts to attract, support development of, and retain new talent.

However, we may be missing a big piece of the puzzle which causes so much contention within our workplaces (across sectors): intergenerational communication.

Simply defined, intergenerational communication defines howindividuals across age groups (or cohorts, such as millennials, GenX, Baby Boomers, GenZ, etc.) communicate, resolve conflict, connect socially and collaborate.

One thread of truth that is woven through every generation is this: We all want to feel like we belong.  

Influence of morale

One of the predominant threads found in research related to the human experience, we want to belong. The research is quite clear: People do not leave organizations when they feel they belong. This may look/sound/feel like an employee who shares these sentiments within their organization:

  • I feel valued.
  • I feel supported.
  • My voice is heard and valued.
  • I am compensated adequately for my worth.
  • I am asked about my opinion.
  • Those who I report to know pieces of who I am, what’s important to me, and what makes me tick.

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive, however, it might provide a good starting point for understanding the path to higher morale within organizations.

In a recent article, “The Value of Belonging at Work,” by Evan W. Carr, Andrew Reece, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Alexi Robichaux in Harvard Business Review in 2019, approximately 40% of people do not feel connected at work. In fact, they feel isolated.

“If workers feel like they belong, companies reap substantial bottom-line benefits. High belonging was linked to a whopping 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. For a 10,000-person company, this would result in annual savings of more than $52M.”

From my perspective…

I asked a couple colleagues if they would be willing to answer the following question: Why do you think intergenerational communication is an essential skill in the workforce right now?

Brent Comer, Ph.D., and K-12 public school superintendent, and Augustine Emuwa, author, speaker and CEO of Chicago-based firm Identity Capital Consulting, offer their perspectives. Comer identifies as Generation X and Augustine identifies as a Xennial, which is an individual born on the cusp of the millennial and Generation X eras.

Emuwa: “I feel that studying generational differences is key in order to fully examine communication norms and gaps that we have been established across different age groups. I often wonder if some of the experiences that I have as a Black man are attributed to racial tension or differing styles of communication that present differently from those that I’ve internalized in my community, with family and peers, and even colleagues and supervisors that are typically Generation X. I continue to explore and analyze whether some of the tensions I experience among other racialized groups are steeped in bias or could it be simpler in nature. The research around this topic is needed in the conversation about equity and race relations and it’s often never brought up.”   

Comer: “An interesting dichotomy is occurring across a wide scope of organizations. As lines of communication have greatly increased, positive and effective collaboration appears to be on a sharp decline. A cause of this organizational dilemma is fueled by multiple generations comprising the workforce. These generational representatives bring with them, at times, contrasting ideals in regard to communication. What is said and heard often contrasts with how something is said and heard. Leaders that can maneuver effective communication in these contrasting rough waters can not only foster an effective culture but can increase the productivity of their organization.”

Justine Gonzalez is an Indiana native and first-generation college graduate having served in both Chicago Public and Indianapolis Public Schools. Her consulting firm Educator Aide Inc. partners with organizations to help cultivate culturally connected, equitable and inclusive working and learning environments. For experiential learning resources related to culture, equity and inclusion, visit: https://www.educatoraide.com/.  

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