The workplace is changing dramatically. Baby boomers are working alongside Millennials young enough to be their grandchildren. Gen-Xers are squeezed between boomers reluctant to cede power and busters unable to wait their turn. The dynamics have changed as well. In 1962, just 38% of women participated in the labor force, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. 50 years later, it was 58% (with the percentage of working Hispanic and African-American women rising 15.5% and 11.1%, respectively, since 1972).
Coupled with such mega-trends as globalization and the Internet, the changes mean that workers will eventually be managing (or working for) people who carry very different experiences and perceptions from themselves. This produces a greater probability of misunderstanding and tension as employees wade through a mass of differing generational and cultural values. That is one reason why Rutgers University’s Managing a Multigenerational and Diverse Workforce ranks among the most essential MOOCs in August.
GENERATIONAL DIFFERENCES SHAPE THE WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE
Taught by Dr. Bill Castellano, the school’s associate dean and a former senior vice president of Merrill Lynch, the course looks at demographic shifts (i.e. birth rates), inventions (i.e. personal computers), and world events (i.e. the Vietnam war) and how they shaped the attributes of various generations. For example, Gen-X came of age during a time of recession and layoffs. As a result, they became more self-reliant and entrepreneurial, spending more time with family and demanding greater control over their work. Growing up with the Internet, Gen-Y emerged as tech-savvy. Transferring their tight family bonds to the workplace, these baby busters also seek out deeper relationships with their managers and peers.
Obviously, some people don’t fit their generational profile. However, understanding the differences in outlook and communication styles can explain why some may act the way they do and how to better engage them, motivate better performance, and diffuse conflict. Even more, Castellano has some advice on how to better facilitate communication between generations and cultures.
“Take time out using technology. It can become overwhelming when everybody is constantly connected, constantly on their email, constantly texting,” Castellano explains in a 2015 webinar. “More and more companies are taking a timeout and encouraging people (particularly during that time period) to do more face-to-face meetings. And I think that gives all the generations an appreciation that there are different ways of communicating and they begin to understand that different people that you work with, people you work for, may have a preference to either a face-to-face communication or using technology to communicate. … I think you need a balance.”
LEADERSHIP AND SOCIAL ENTERPRISE AMONG THE TOP MOOCs FOR AUGUST
Intergenerational communication isn’t the only hot topic for August. On Aug. 1, Duke University releases Behavioral Finance, to give investors a peek at the fallacies that can destroy portfolios. Taking a more macro view, the University of Pennsylvania will conduct Microeconomics: When Markets Fail, to provide an inside look at why the free market sometimes struggles. At the same time, MIT, the top graduate program for logistics, will examine where systems logjam and why in Supply Chain Dynamics.
Poets can rejoice as well. This month features several MOOCs on leadership, headed by the University of Illinois’ new Leadership and Influence course, along with the London Business School opening up another round of its popular Managing the Company of the Future class. For aspiring marketers, IE Business School unveils The Marketing Plan, while the University of California-Berkeley continues its deep dive into analytics with Marketing Analytics: Competitive Analysis and Market Segmentation that starts on Aug. 2.
For students looking to use business to fulfill a larger social mission, August offers a course on nearly every imaginable topic, including developing nonprofit strategy, scaling social impact, and supporting subsistence marketplaces.
To learn more about these courses — and register for them — click on the links below.
FINANCE AND ECONOMICS