In Generations at Work, Zemke, Raines & Filipczak propose that organizations that have successfully managed generational differences “overcommunicate”. The best and brightest intergenerational organizations encourage frequent and open discussions about the differences between the cohorts and the differences among members of the same generational cohort. According to the authors “generational differences are based primarily on unarticulated assumptions and unconscious criteria therefore, surfacing them takes a giant step toward resolving them”.
The authors identified similarities among cross-generational friendly organizations. They found five common themes and labeled them using the acronym ACORN.
A – Accommodate employee differences
This can take many forms including accommodating different scheduling needs, work-life balance, generational icons, language, and precepts.
C – Create workplace choices
Generation friendly workplaces are relaxed, informal, change is a part of the culture, and the workplace evolves around the work being performed, the employees, and the customer.
O – Operate from a sophisticated management style
Generationally friendly managers give employees the big picture, specific goals and measures, and then turn their people loose providing them with feedback, reward and recognition as appropriate. They utilize situational leadership and work to gain the trust of their employees.
R – Respect competence and initiative
Best practice organizations assume the best of their employees. Every employee regardless of age or experience is treated as a valuable contributor
N – Nourish retention
Generationally friendly organizations are focused on employee retention and making their workplace a magnet for excellence. They provide excellent training and coaching, and promote regular lateral movement within the organization. They also offer broadened assignments giving employees the opportunity to develop a greater range of skills.
In addition to practicing the ACORN principles, generationally friendly companies market internally. They made a conscious effort to remind employees of all the good things the company has to offer.