Dr. Katherine Jeffery is a generational researcher and practitioner who guides companies and organizations through the massive leadership transition that is happening in the world right now. She has done in-depth research on the Millennial generation having worked with them for over 20 years AND focusing her doctoral research on their view of leadership and teams. She not only has a unique ability to connect with every generation but more importantly, she is a savvy Gen Xer who has learned to navigate a Boomer world while helping Millennials be successful in this foreign culture along the way. She believes each generation has much to teach the others and is grateful for Gen Z as they continue to keep her relevant in this rapidly changing world.
Katherine spent over 20 years working with the Millennial generation and helping them to grow as leaders. This began after she graduated college and found herself working at a wilderness camp for “emotionally disturbed teenagers” (this was the politically correct term at that time). It was here she discovered the transformative power that can be found in a group and the power of positive peer pressure. While hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail with teens who were headed to jail unless true change was observed, she noticed in them a deep desire to grow and a hunger to belong. She finished her master’s degree in counseling from Clemson University during this time which helped her to begin to tap into the underlying psyche of this fascinating generation.
Later, Katherine became a professor of leadership development. Her classroom led her to deeper studies into how the Millennials view the world and how it differs from those who have gone before them. One day, she asked her class what the best form of leadership was: Authoritative, Democratic, or Laissez-Faire? Every hand in the room raised at laissez-faire. She instantly knew that this was significant. Something had shifted in a profound way as the Millennials were thinking about and articulating what it meant to lead. She also continued to notice their hunger to learn and grow. As she pushed back on her class about why they might consider the other forms of leadership, they eagerly entered the conversation and understood the differences.
This led Katherine to dig into this more deeply as the topic of her dissertation. She interviewed Millennial after Millennial while conducting a qualitative research study. People told her she was crazy to study such a thing. She thought it was fascinating! You can check out her findings on the Millennial Research page.
There has been much attention brought to diversity in the workplace. Gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and the list goes on. When was the last time you considered generational differences as part of the diversity in your workforce? If there ever was a time to pay attention to it, the time is now!
In fact, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, the top diversity challenge in North America is age!
For the first time ever, 5 generations are working alongside one another and the road is not an easy one.
According to Gallup, Millennial turnover is costing the US economy over $30 billion every year. On average, Millennials are staying with a job for 3-5 years, many not feeling like they have opportunity to grow or advance so when new opportunities arise, they are quick to take them. Only 18% of Millennials plan on staying with their company long term. While Baby Boomers held company loyalty as a high value, Millennials do not hesitate to take a new job where they might have a larger voice, be more aligned with the company’s core values, or have more opportunities to develop and pursue their passions.
The brain drain is a reality. Baby Boomers are retiring and taking their many years of company knowledge with them. At the same time, Millennials are moving up the ladder into a greater number of leadership roles. Recruiting and retaining top talent is key to the longevity of an organization’s success. There is no time to waste in ensuring that this transition is incredibly positive. We must build bridges between the generations, allow for positive and open communication and knowledge exchanges, and gain a deep understanding of the challenges that not only exist in the present but are also on the horizon.
An organization with the ability and agility to adapt yet maintain integral parts of its DNA is essential to retain top quality Millennials and Gen Z employees that work well with other generations. In what ways are you building a sustainable organization that withstands this generational leadership transition?