This fall we shared a blog introducing MNA’s office book club, which has been a great opportunity for staff to come together and discuss everything from trends in the nonprofit sector to work styles among colleagues. So far we’ve read Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, Generations: The Challenge of Lifetime for Your Nonprofit by Peter Brinckerhoff, and Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age by Allison Fine.
I wanted to share my thoughts on Generations since MNA has been focusing on diversity in the nonprofit sector. We’ve polled our members, examined our own board and staff and looked at a variety of issues including race, gender, geography, background and of course, age. Until recently I thought the last point, when you were born, was just a matter of time and relative maturity. That was until I read Generations. Among Peter’s many revelations is the blazing fact that we have to realize our generational categories, focus on the perspectives of the various generations, and have a game plan for both dealing with the growing number of Boomers retiring and the near equal number of Gen@’s coming into the leadership of our workforce.
For a “tween” generation like myself (someone born in 1964, just past the end of the Boomers and at the beginning of the GenX), I find myself to be a product of television and the personal computer. Yet, I still don’t really get full value of Facebook and Twitter, but yet still haven’t found a new technology that I wouldn’t want to own. In my work life, I am suppose to have the desire for informality (GenX), but the optimism and career focus of the Boomer Generation. As I am sure is the case with many others, I don’t fit in one nice category. On the other hand, the framework of Generations gives everyone a way of examining diversity in the workplace in a very different way.
Brinkerhoff’s “Six Big Actions” provide a work plan for organizations to use as they seek to not only diversify their talent pool, but also deal with the demographic forces we all will be faced with as we look to both retain and attract talent for our staff and boards. For my own organization, we’ve been wrestling with the challenge of internal work styles, communicating with our members, mentoring new leaders to the sector, and managing board diversity in recent years. I have been struggling with how to deal with the overall issue of talent in very crude terms (race, gender, age) and I should be looking much deeper—looking at generational issues, communication styles in a wired age, marketing to audiences in the ways they take in information, accommodating technology preferences (what Brinkerhoff calls, “Techspectations”).
Diversity is a sensitive and complicated issue. It’s made even more complicated by the generational issues identified by Brinckerhoff. Fortunately, Generations provides a framework to have the conversation that is non-threatening and far-reaching. I encourage every nonprofit leader to check it out, and check out the various assessment tools to see how you and your organization can engage the various generations at their levels. It will change your thinking.
Filed under: Communication, Human Resources, Leadership, Marketing, Planning, Sector Issues, Technology, Transparency and Accountability Tagged: | communication styles, Marketing, nonprofit, nonprofit leadership, nonprofit leadership transitions, nonprofit sector issues, nonprofit transparency, Strategic planning