Delegates at day one of the virtual World Credit Union Conference were encouraged to think of new ways to address generational difference.
During her keynote address Raven Solomon, a diversity, equity and inclusion thought leader, offered a series of recommendations to credit unions looking to promote generational inclusion.
Generational differences are important, said Ms Solomon, because they can be encountered every day. “If we’re not careful, if we’re not cognsant of them and if we’re not equipped to really navigate them, they can really cause some frustration and some real issues inside of our organisations – and by issues, I mean problems recruiting and retaining talent, problems recruiting and retaining members, problems moving and motivating cross-generational teams, problems in getting the best out of our team members.”
Describing diversity as “the presence of difference” she explained that this could span all dimensions of human identity.
“It’s important to note that who we are, how we identify, does not stop at one of these single attributes. Who we are, how we identify, how we experience the world, really is about how the single attributes intersect for each of us individually to really create our experience of the world. How the world experiences and that is a term we call intersectionality – it’s about how the single attributes intersect to create unique realities for us individually, within some of our group identities.”
In this context, inclusion is about making sure that this difference counts and is “truly engaged and leveraged and employed to generate organisational outcomes,” she added.
“Inclusion really describes the extent to which employees, members and team members feel valued, respected and accepted, and are encouraged to fully participate in the organisation.
“And so, if diversity is the presence of difference, and inclusion is making sure that difference counts, then generational diversity is merely the presence of generational difference.”
Every generation was a pioneering generation in its time, she said – fighting for the future, challenging the way things are and encouraging risk-taking. She also challenged delegates to show grace towards young people now going through this phase – the desire to fight and take risks and push the envelope, challenge the organisations to move forward.
Historic events and social trends mean that people from same generation share common beliefs and behaviours.
“Many of us believe that our experience as a generation is unique,” she said. “But when we begin to believe that our generational experience is not just different, but that is superior, and that is better, and that as a result of that we know best, and other generations, know less, that’s when it can become harmful and detrimental, not just to the organisation, but to people because then we operate from a place of bias generational bias, less than talking about just a few of the generational differences that exist among us.”
She gave examples of generational differences determined by different upbringings and approaches to parenting. If baby boomers are very loyal to organisations and likely to stay with the same company for many years, generation X will only stay with a company if their career objectives align with those of the company.
Meanwhile, millennials are the first generation to demand meaning and purpose in their work. “Credit unions have a huge opportunity when it comes to positioning what you do and what you give folks the opportunity to do – in the world, and in the community in front of millennials, and to provide them with the opportunity to really do meaningful work,” she added.
Similarly, generation Z are passionate and vocal about things they believe in and care about global issues, from gender equality and LGBTQ rights to climate change and diversity.
“As credit unions, think about how you can attract, educate and position your services in front of this generation – not just as members, but places they can work for and do meaningful work,” she said.
Ms Solomon gave credit unions three tips to leverage generational differences: increase empathy and awareness around generations for team members and managers; take steps when creating teams, task forces or projects to ensure generational inclusion; and create safe spaces for all generations to develop and provide feedback to the organisation.
She challenged delegates to diversify their news feeds, and the information sources they use to take personal and business decisions; and to engage at least one person from one other generation before making their next three big decisions, be those personal or professional.
The World Credit Union Conference runs through Wednesday, 21 July, and will include a range of sessions focused on diversity and inclusion.