“Gentelligence pushes back on the idea of generational competition, replacing it with the idea that people of all ages can benefit from the potential of intergenerational power.”
There’s a new word synonymous with championing age diversity: Gentelligence. Gentelligence is the ability to break down age-based tensions and biases and build up intergenerational strength and power. It shifts our mindset from thinking about generational differences as a threat to leveraging them as an opportunity for growth, innovation, and learning. It’s an acknowledgment that growing up during different periods of history provides us essential and valuable perspectives that matter. In short, it’s about changing the negative narrative around age and sparking awareness that every generation has something to teach as well as something to learn from those who are both older and younger.
At its core, Gentelligence is both a rallying cry and a handbook for championing age diversity. The book brings together research, case studies, and best practices in D & I and cross-cultural management and shows how they can be applied to lead more effectively across generations. It’s time to start a more thoughtful conversation about age diversity, one that steps away from stereotypes and generational shaming and instead frames our multigenerational workplaces and societies as an opportunity for growth and learning for all of us.
When we learned that June 11 was Championing Age Diversity Day, it seemed all things were aligning as the Gentelligence book would be released into the world that same week. We’re excited to share this excerpt from the book and hope it will leave you wanting to learn more about this vital workplace strategy.
An excerpt from 'Gentelligence: The Revolutionary Approach to Leading an Intergenerational Workforce' (Rowman & Littlefield, June 2021):
CHANGING THE MINDSET: FROM GENERATIONAL COMPETITION TO INTERGENERATIONAL COOPERATION
Instead of participating in the endless generational battle, companies need to take action against the very mindset that allows it to continue. It’s time to create organisational strategies to foster intergenerational cooperation, allowing them to unlock talent potential rather than perpetuating endless wars over it. Talent is a key source of competitive advantage for almost every organisation, one that is increasingly scarce as the struggle over skilled talent intensifies. Forbes estimates that employee recruitment alone is a $200 billion worldwide market. Employees across generations are currently elbowing for generational relevancy, rather than feeling secure in the value they bring to their organisations. Some of the oldest, most experienced members of our workforce are feeling marginalised and undervalued compared with tech-savvy, quick-to-adapt younger employees. Millennials are now beginning to be replaced as the new kids on the block by Gen Z. Our youngest generations of employees are striving to have their voices heard despite their young age and limited expertise. The Society of Human Resource Management explains, “Consider it a major disconnect in hiring: On the one hand, many recruiters put a premium on ‘high-performers’ with ‘proven experience,’ while on the other they are increasingly looking for ‘digital natives’—members of the demographic raised in the age of online technology and thus by definition too new to the workforce to have proved much of anything.” This dynamic can result in a competitive generational gridlock—and navigating these workplace tensions often requires delicate negotiation.
To successfully create a powerful intergenerational talent strategy, we argue that organisations need significant disruption in how they are defining diversity to include the vital aspects of age and generational identity. It’s time for an increased focus on how these differences can bring value to the workplace, rather than repeating conversations about how they are a headache. The disruption in diversity strategy needs to focus not just on attracting an intergenerational workforce but also on understanding how to develop and retain it. Development and retention require attention to create inclusive organisational cultures where all generations are given a voice and expected to learn from each other. Chip Conley, strategic advisor for hospitality for AirBnB, states in his book, 'Wisdom @ Work', “This unprecedented age diversity in the workplace can be confusing as we may have drastically different value systems and work systems at play. But also it can be a wellspring of opportunity that the world has never experienced.”
In the end, the existing win-lose perspective creates a mindset of scarcity — one that destructively assumes a finite amount of resources (e.g. opportunities or recognition) and that for one to win, another must lose. This mentality must be debunked and replaced with the idea that working collaboratively together can lead to providing additional resources for everyone. Like most types of organisational change, threats can also become opportunities with the right leadership strategy. JoAnn Jenkins, CEO of AARP, remarked in 2016, “A workplace with Millennials, GenXers, Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation offers a unique opportunity for varied perspectives and approaches to day-to-day work."Now that Gen Z is entering the workplace, we have even more significant input and potential for success—if there is a method to harness and integrate the advantages that each cohort brings to the table."
We believe Gentelligence is that method. We have created a set of actionable, research-based practices to help navigate the roadblocks to leveraging age diversity and help build trust and intergenerational collaboration. The book shares these practices (known as the Gentelligence Method) and how they can be applied to our most common workplace challenges: people strategy, leadership, team collaboration, adaptable cultures, and the future of work.
If this is the first you’ve heard about Gentelligence, we hope it’s not the last. In addition to the book, we’re excited to announce that we are now launching a platform to offer Gentelligence training for organisations worldwide. You can find out more at www.poweroftheages.com.
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