Company culture is always changing, but these days the changes are coming thicker and faster than ever. The baby-boomer generation is in the process of retiring, and in its place, we've got Generations X and Y already shaking things up, with Z waiting in the wings ready to do the same.
What drives cultural change?
The influx of Generation Y into the workplace has lead to a massive cultural shift in the workplace, and Generation Z is about to do the same. The baby-boomer generation, known for its strictly professional behavior, strong work ethic, and high level of company commitment, is on the way out and headed for retirement. In its place Generations Y and Z are people who have grown up with the internet, and its virtually infinite amount of information, at their fingertips. The baby-boomers value seniority and the chain of command, while the new generation values knowledge over experience, are more casual in dress and behaviour, and don't want to sacrifice their personal lives for work.
Cultural changes are often driven by technological advances, and this is definitely true when it comes to company culture. For example, now that most people have mobile phones or smartphones, many people find that it's no longer possible to entirely disconnect from work, and there's often an expectation that employees in certain industries and jobs are always available, even during leisure hours. While Generation X in particular is mostly accepting of this, Y and Z are more likely to resist it, in part because many GenXers were already in the workforce when the technology became widespread and it was more likely to be first encountered at work. To the younger generations, it's just part of the furniture.
Flexibility is a key attribute for the modern company and it's something that Generations X and Y have in spades. Job descriptions are more loosely defined, the chain of command is more of a network than a single-direction channel, and the people who thrive in this environment are the ones who have grown up in a globalised multi-media world where information is shared freely and constantly.
Company culture is more values-driven than it's ever been, with leaders establishing core values that provide the cohesiveness needed for a company to thrive in the face of greater flexibility, and a less rigidly-defined company structure. As well as this, GenZers are coming into the workforce with little in the way of basic job skills, which means it's now even more important to develop a shared belief system that's relevant to each employee, and defines how people are expected to behave in the workplace. It's also increasingly important that managers lead by example - not just repeating company values, but modeling them in the workplace.
Collaborative and transparent
Leadership is no longer just about managers telling other people what to do and when to do it. The baby-boomers were rigid when it came to observing chain of command, but the new generation of workers isn't, and in the most adaptive companies there's a shift towards leaders being people who facilitate teamwork and solve problems, rather than simply people who make decisions and give orders.
This has implications for training. How easy is it for one generation to train the next? With Generation X it was considered the norm for a trainer to be older and more experienced than the people they were training. Structures were more rigid. Younger generations are not averse to learning from older generations but they react better to an engaging and inspiring style that they can connect with. They also learn better together, rather than individually and so learning teams are common practice.
Apprenticeships are in the news a lot at the moment, and this model of on the job learning would seem to be the ideal way for one generation to pass on knowledge to the next.
When all of this is taken into account it seems that training is more of an interactive activity than ever before. The days of learning dry information are over an interaction and collaborative learning become the norm.
This causes a bit of a paradox. On the one participants want training is be more human, and on the other hand technology is trying to build a case for its own training effectiveness. People need to use technology as a tool, and not as an end in its own right.