Embracing Generational Diversity to Cultivate an Effective Workplace | Conservation | Parks & Recreation Magazine | NRPA

Embracing Generational Diversity to Cultivate an Effective Workplace | Conservation | Parks & Recreation Magazine | NRPA

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Park and recreation jobs are ideal for people who enjoy working outside, creating healthy living opportunities and maximizing wellness. Many park and recreation agencies employ individuals spanning five generations, each with unique characteristics. This dynamic can be challenging for leaders when building a team and cultivating an effective workplace. It can be helpful to get to know the generations and how they impact conservation, economics and the workforce. It also is imperative to know each employee to maximize productivity and inspire professional growth.

Generation Zers are individuals born from 1997 to 2012, and often are focused on finding work-life balance. They are flexible and don’t mind taking risks when necessary. In most cases, they are tech-savvy and can leverage social media culture in the workplace.

Millennials are those born from 1981 to 1996 and tend to possess a similar craftiness in technology. They are always looking for the next big thing and are extremely motivated by achievement. They embrace collaborative environments and welcome diversity in the workplace.

While Generation Xers are independent and organized, those in this generation born from 1965 to 1980 still desire structure. They have good work ethics and are goal-oriented. They do, however, want to enjoy their work environment and look forward to being at work.

Baby boomers — those born from 1946 to 1964 — welcome a stable environment and plan to retire financially secure. Working harder and longer than others is an essential part of their path to reaching their goals. Often, “boomers” are blamed by younger generations for failing to take action on or be good stewards of the environment. However, this is the generation that came of age during the modern environmental movement.

The silent generation — consisting of people born from 1928 to 1945 — is unlike any other. These individuals possess traditional values and believe in working hard and maintaining loyalty to their organization and the profession. They consider respect to be a universal expectation for an effective work environment.

Once there is an understanding of the generational diversity in the office, simple strategies can be used to cultivate teamwork and productivity. Expand communication by using various modes, considering the audience. Match tasks to the appropriate employee. Build leadership by in-viting idea proposals from employees. Design a collaborative meeting space to increase voice and accountability. Highlight expertise among employees and allow for professional growth within the groups. Train employees to be open-minded to cre-ate an environment where change is comfortable and that cultivates a growth mindset. Taking a new approach by meeting employees where they are is a game changer.

Good relationships in a work environment can be difficult to achieve, especially when working styles vary. Each generation is an in-tegral part of any successful company; ignoring problems simply isn’t an option. Fostering an environment where stereotypes are stripped away rather than built up, collabo-ration is encouraged, and managers better understand their employees will go a long way toward getting these sometimes very opposite generations to work well together.

Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing individuals who have the potential to fill key leadership positions within an organization. This is especially important in the park and recreation profession because many key employees are nearing retirement age, and the field faces a huge recruitment challenge. Without succession planning, we run the risk of losing institutional knowledge and expertise.

There are four basic foundation-al components to building an impactful succession plan:

In addition to working on employee development, succession planning also can help focus the organization on looming knowledge or experience gaps. If a key employee is likely to retire in the next one to two years, the organization can work with them to ensure records and systems are in place so that when the employee leaves, years of knowledge don’t walk out the door with them. Succession planning often has the added benefits of increasing employee engagement and improving the skill and performance of your workforce.

Succession planning does not guarantee an employee will get a specific job, nor that an employee will necessarily be promoted within your organization. A small organization may have more talented candidates than positions available. Also, timing can be wrong — an employee may be ready to advance and leave before an internal vacancy occurs, or a key job may open before any in-ternal candidate is ready. Succession planning can increase the likelihood that your organization will have one or more strong internal candidates for promotion, if and when project-ed vacancies occur.

Sean G. De Palma, MS, CPRE, is Director of Quality of Life Department for City of Panama City. David L. Howard Jr., CPSI, is Director of Parks and Recreation for City of Brooksville.

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