Reorienting orientation to fit generational needs

By Phyllis Weiss Haserot

This is part of a series of regular columns by generational expert and internationally known consultant, coach, writer, and speaker Phyllis Weiss Haserot on intergenerational relations and navigating the challenges of the multi-generational workplace for better productivity, retention, succession planning, and business development results.

Firms and other organizations are still trying to figure out the newest generation in the workplace. They attend conference sessions and Webcasts, and they bring in generational experts for seminars. They are looking for the secret sauce that will turn the young recruits into the more traditional, driven professionals they knew and could count on to work hard, aspire to partnership, and stick around for three to five years, at which point they will have made money for the firm.
The resolution will require, whether they like it or not, more attitude- and behavior-changing on the part of partners and senior managers than they are likely to get from Generation Y, at least once the economy turns up and there are greater opportunities again.. It will require creative thinking, new offerings and more savvy and generation-sensitive management to engage and have the desired effect on the younger generation. I see this as a three-prong approach:
1)      New management thinking translated into action
2)      Greatly enhanced orientation programs
3)      Facilitated dialogues among work teams
I have written about item #3 previously . This article will focus on pumping up orientation programs. Not incidentally, these changes in orientation will benefit Generation X and many partners as well as they open their minds and participate in orientation programs.
Generational Definitions
Here are some quick definitions. Generations are defined by the similar formative influences – social, cultural, political, economic – that existed as the individuals of particular birth cohorts were growing up. Given that premise, the age breakdowns for each of the four generations currently in the workplace are approximately:

Traditionalists born 1925-1942
Baby Boomers born 1943-1962
Generation X born 1963-1978
Generation Y/Millennials born 1979-1998 (under age 30 today)

Here are the topics I recommend to add to firm orientation programs ASAP. I would go so far as to say they are appropriate for summer interns (students) as well as first year professional and young contract staff or other freelance professionals working in a firm’s offices.
  • Understanding the economics of a firm.
  • How the perceptions of others (partners, supervisors, colleagues, clients) affect career progress. This would cover behavior, attire, perceptions of work ethic, etc.
  • How to initiate conversations with partners and supervisors, and how to ask for feedback.
  • Expectations – the firm’s and yours.
  • How to channel creativity appropriately (and why certain behaviors and self-expression may hurt others or the firm).
In addition, from my observations and reports from professional development, marketing and human resource directors as well as partners, there is a clear need for better orientation for the people brought in laterally. Particularly relevant are:
  • Briefings on the economics of the firm and how they personally affect revenues and costs.
  • Firm culture and values.
  • How to manage junior staff.
For maximum attention, perhaps (I suggest not facetiously) orientation information should be posted on YouTube or a firm Facebook (or similar site) page as well as delivered in person at the firm.
© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2010. All rights reserved.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot is the president of Practice Development Counsel, a business development and organizational effectiveness consulting and coaching firm working with professional firms for over 20 years, A special focus is on the profitability of improving inter-generational relations and succession/transitioning planning for baby boomer senior partners/executives and their firms
firms ( Phyllis is the author of "The Rainmaking Machine" and “The Marketer’s Handbook of Tips & Checklists” (both West 2009). URL: LinkedIn:


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