Creating a multi-generational culture to support your CX strategy.

Baby Boomers, Millennials, Gen Xers and Gen Z’s make up our current workforce, but each has a unique set of needs.  How do we satisfy the needs of each while creating a culture that will support and deliver an effective CX strategy?    

Consider these examples.  In the 1984 Presidential Debates with Vice President Walter Mondale and President Ronald Reagan, who at the time was 73 years of age, Reagan was asked if he was too old to be president?  Using his age-old wisdom, he responded, "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." A quip that some suggest, won him the election. 

A recent headline in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, proclaimed, “What does Generation Z want out of Minnesota workplaces? Companies need to adjust their approach to attract the newest crop of workers.” “You can’t apply the same frameworks you used to hire baby boomers to this new internet generation,” warned Philip Xiao, a 25-year-old Minneapolis entrepreneur, addressing a roomful of human-resource managers and campus recruiters. “

Finally, a Pew research study states, “As of 2017 – the most recent year for which data are available – 56 million Millennials (those ages 21 to 36 in 2017) were working or looking for work. That was more than the 53 million Generation Xers, who accounted for a third of the labor force. And it was well ahead of the 41 million Baby Boomers, who represented a quarter of the total. Millennials surpassed Gen Xers in 2016.”  And now we add Generation Z. 

What does all this have to do with improving the customer and employee experience in an organization?  Is it possible that in our zeal to seek fresh ideas we are leaving behind the experience and knowledge of those who have been innovating, leading and achieving goals for decades?  There’s no question that organizations must have a culture, an environment, a tradition of engaging employees fully in order to achieve the best possible customer experience. 

We used to say happy employees equal happy customers.  Today, that statement seems almost condescending to employees within an organization.  After all, we’ve asked them to “do more with less”, tested their loyalty, limited their pay and outsourced their positions.  Creating an engaged workforce is so much more than just being “happy”.  It’s the work we do that contributes to our happiness in an organization.  It’s the value we bring to our colleagues and customers that provides us satisfaction in our positions, isn’t it? 

While understanding a new generation and aligning one’s culture to its unique needs and expectations, we simultaneously need to understand the needs and expectations of all generations within an organization.  Having a culture flexible enough to do this is not an easy undertaking.  Years ago, and still today, thousands have gone to the Disney Institute to understand their secret sauce.  Nowadays, we flock to Zappos in hopes of finding the silver bullet to make our cultures responsive enough to retain the best of the best in our battle for talent.  While these are excellent examples of dynamic cultures, the only way we can create the culture necessary to compete in the 21st century is by doing it ourselves.  We need to consider the vision, mission and values of our organization and align them to our customer experience strategy.  We can’t separate our brand from our culture or our experience strategy.  In truly effective cultures all are fully integrated and practiced daily. 

 I won’t presume to suggest I have the answers to creating a culture that can do all that I’m suggesting.  I do think there are ways we can engage employees more fully in the achievement of the type of experience we desire for our customers. 

·         Envision the future.  What will your culture look like in 5 years?  10 years?  Look forward so you can look back and determine how to achieve your ideal culture. 

·         Define the strategy.  Be clear about the culture and customer experience you’re trying to achieve. Speak frankly and directly about what is and is not changing.  Keep what’s good and eliminate what’s bad within your organization.

·         Skip the Posters.  Changing culture is not about balloons and posters.  It’s about real, tangible communications to employees about how to act, behave and execute the experience culture.  Ongoing, informative communications in a variety of formats can help drive the change within your organization. 

·         Talk with Customers.  Talk to your customers about your desire to change the culture and improve their customer experience.  They will welcome the opportunity to collaborate with you and create a win-win result. 

·         Align Behaviors.  Just saying you’re a customer-focused organization, isn’t enough.  Employees need help understanding what behaviors must change and the support and training to change them. 

·         Include Everyone.  Every function.  Every department.  Every employee needs to be engaged and focused on executing your CX strategy.  Ask about their expectations and needs and include them as part of your cultural transformation. 

·         Celebrate the wins.  When success is realized, celebrate it!  Recognize the employees who are changing and use them as examples of what can happen when we transform to a customer-focused organization.

·         Learn and Modify.  Not everything you do will work.  That’s OK.  Acknowledging the failures and modifying the path will help not hurt your transformation.  Go for the base hits rather than the home runs! 

Each generation brings a unique set of skills and expertise to an organization.  What’s most important isn’t the generation you identify with but rather the vision, mission and values of the organization and its culture.

Recognizing the diversity of thought and skills only serves to embolden your cultural transformation and improve the customer experience.I wouldn’t want it any other

Robert Azman