ASU event focuses on multigenerational workplaces

By

Heather Beshears

The Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation’s emerging leadership programs, Generation Next Nonprofit Leadership Academy (GenNext) and Public Allies Arizona, recently collaborated with Experience Matters for a programming day centered around the topic of multigenerational workplaces.

With upward of five generations of volunteer and paid-staff serving through the human resource pipeline for nonprofits, organizers planned this collaborative convening to better understand the different values, motivations and work styles of various generations. Together, the three cohorts learned about communication differences among generations that are becoming increasingly apparent in many of today’s workplaces. The open dialogue allowed participants to realize everyone’s full potential in the workplace, offering a clear path to better meet their collective goals of increasing the effectiveness of nonprofits in delivering their missions.

Sally Clifford, program director for Experience Matters, introduced participants to generational impact years and the differences that make each generation unique. The half-day program also included a workplace simulation, in which participants shared different responses to similar situations, as well as a small panel discussion led by Irma Leyendecker, director of leadership programs and Public Allies Arizona for the ASU Lodestar Center. The panel discussed various communication styles, professional motivations and work style preferences of different generations. The day was focused on a desire to understand the changing professional world while helping prepare the participants to become more effective communicators in today’s multigenerational atmosphere.

“I was truly honored to be able to participate in such a rewarding day,” says Kendall Crever, a current first-year Public Ally and event and volunteer coordinator for Local First Arizona Foundation. “The day had purpose, meaning and opened my eyes to all of the ways the different generations of nonprofit professionals can come together and learn from one another.”

This kind of multigenerational collaboration is a growing focus for the ASU Lodestar Center. The Center’s 2013 Annual Nonprofit Conference on Sustainability Strategies featured a segment where Public Allies were paired with GenNext participants for a day of networking and reflection. An overwhelmingly positive response from both cohorts reinforced the value of such collaborative efforts between the two programs. Both Public Allies Arizona and GenNext have a strong relationship with Experience Matters, thus making a three-part collaboration among these programs a natural fit. Experience Matters was particularly valuable to the joint programming day, due to the fact that they regularly facilitate a two-day learning lab on multigenerational styles.

“Participating on the multigenerational panel at the joint program day was a great experience. I was able to gain insight from people with different experiences and perspectives,” says Carlos Nava, a current first-year Public Ally serving as a volunteer income tax assistance coordinator for Valley of the Sun United Way. “I realized that no matter what the difference in age or experience, our values weren't too different.”

As technological advances continue to increase in frequency and complexity, informational and cultural gaps between various generational groups will continue to be a source of concern in the workplace. This past February’s joint programming day between the ASU Lodestar Center’s emerging leadership programs and Experience Matters has shown that education and communication are the keys to reducing and eliminating misunderstanding and stress among the working generations. The ASU Lodestar Center will continue to foster these kinds of collaborative learning experiences as a means to improving the efficiency and capacity of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. The center invites nonprofit organizations to seek out similar collaborations within their respective organizations, or in conjunction with other organizations who share similar mission and goals.

Written by Nicole Almond Anderson, nicole.almondanderson@asu.edu, 602-496-0185