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Generations United

By Robyn Undieme | August 21, 2015

Organizations as a whole are interesting to observe, aren't they? Despite the differences that exist internally, every organization morphs into a culture and a personality unique unto its own that creates an overall workplace culture. And the larger the organization, the more diverse (and interesting) it gets.

One aspect of diversity that I enjoy reflecting on the most is the differences between generations in the workplace. With approximately 3,700 City employees, it's no wonder we have a lot of generational diversity across the board. I have a lot of respect for employees who have been with the City for 20-plus years. What I've observed in my short three years with the City thus far is that long-term employees change positions and departments (likely promoting), but never the company itself. Some years they love it; some years they don't. But in the end, they see it through to the end because at the end of the day they a) value stability, b) have retirement to consider, c) have a family to support, and/or d) truly love what they do for a living and love working with their colleagues. I have no survey responses to back any of this up; these are simply my observations.

To be honest, I don't know which generation I technically fall into. They keep changing the terminology on me. But I do have it narrowed down to Generation X, Y, or Millennial. Regardless of which term you prefer, I can attest that my generation considers five years with the same company a long term commitment (we're clearly comfortable with change). Research has revealed a lot about Millennials. They're referred to as the "Purpose Generation." This tells us that this generation expects a lot from their employer: particularly an emphasis on transparency and social awareness. If Millennials don't feel fulfilled, they typically move on. Purpose and fulfillment outweigh stability. They tend to change jobs to enter the fast lane, shoot to the top, follow their heart, or save the world. By 2025, Millennials are estimated to make up 75 percent of the workforce.

I say all of this because working in the public service industry, we have a lot of lifers who have been here for 20 to 30 years and will be retiring soon. The City is poised to lose a lot of valuable experience and historical knowledge. Despite the differences in our generational approaches and philosophies, we're all a part of the same organization. Between Baby Boomers retiring and Millennials less likely to stay to retirement, it's important that we create a plan for information to pass down effectively to other co-workers. If you have some thoughts on ways to prepare the City for this transition (e.g. succession planning), I'd love to gather your input. You can email me atrundieme@cityoftulsa.org. Hopefully, with your help our organization will prove to be adaptable to the inevitable "passing of the baton."