Keeping Boomers Engaged and Millennials Committed in the Workplace

We’re pleased to highlight this Human Resource Development Review author feature. To view all other author features from HRDR, click here. Below, Dr. Chaudhuri and Dr. Ghosh provide further insight on their article, “Reverse Mentoring: A Social Exchange Tool for Keeping the Boomers Engaged and Millennials Committed,” that is found in Volume 11, Issue 1 of Human Resource Development Review.

1) Please share an overview of your article with our readers. The article titled, “Reverse Mentoring: A Social Exchange Tool for Keeping the Boomers Engaged and Millennial’s Committed” takes a positive perspective whereby the HRD professionals are encouraged to capitalize on the multi-generational workforce that they are gifted with instead of whining about the challenges that it poses. The article proposes reverse mentoring as a social exchange tool which is aimed at leveraging the expertise of both generations including the boomers and millennials, by being perceptive of their different needs, value systems, and work demands. Reverse Mentoring, which is a fairly new tentacle of mentoring is an inverted type of mentoring relationship, wherein junior employees are paired with senior, seasoned, and more experienced staff. Our article offers social exchange and age identification theory as the basic theoretical underpinnings that support the framework of reverse mentoring as a two way street. The mentoring relationship thrives on the mutual exchange between two generations—senior members of an organization will acquire new learnings in the areas of technology—mobile computing, social media, cloud technology, etc.—and work-life diversity, work-life balance, latest professional trends, changing consumer preferences,  and glean a more global perspective on the concepts of openness and diversity. The younger workforce will find in it an opportunity to hone their leadership skills and garner insights on organizational structure. This would eventually result in increased employee commitment and engagement for the millennials and the boomers.

2) How did you reach your interest in this topic? Being instructors at top-notch research universities, we were fortunate to interact with students of high caliber. While facilitating our courses, both of us encountered those AHA moments where our students were instrumental in helping us learn more advanced presentation skills including Prezi, Google HangOut, Google Talk, and the list could just go on. While we were fascinated with our exposure to these new tools, we were equally amazed to witness that there is so much more that these young kids can offer us with respect to new technology and their changing preferences of how they need to be taught to make it most effective for them. This led us to believe that if this relationship is formalized at a much higher level, typically in an organization setting – it can actually reap lot of benefits. Our curiosity led us to dig deeper into this new found intervention of reverse mentoring. What surprised us was the lack of literature in the area when we started researching it in 2011. While a few organizations are trying this intervention, academics have been still slow to jump into this bandwagon. Given the area was still very under researched, we found this an excellent opportunity to pursue.

3) How does your research connect with social responsibility? In 2015, the world witnessed a major demographic shift when the millennials became the largest share of the workforce. Based on the current trend, it is projected that in 2020 millennials will become half of the global workforce. With as many as 4 and in some cases 5 generations working side by side in the workplace, organizational leaders are confronted as never before with a growing generational gap, shifting expectations, as well as the constant need to stay on the cutting ‘digital’ edge.  As more and more senior executives are turning to their younger colleagues for insight and guidance, traditional mentoring is gradually shifting into reverse or reciprocal mentoring turning millennials into the must-have mentors for senior leaders who want to stay ahead of the curve. Additionally, the impending retirement of the boomers is resulting in a leadership gap and possible brain drain shortage. In view of this impending labor shortage resulting from the exodus of boomers, employers must find ways to keep these workers engaged post standard retirement ages. We proffer reverse mentoring as a socially responsible intervention which would keep the boomers engaged and the millennials committed.

4) How might a future scholar implement aspects of your research in their work? The extant literature is limited in its scope when it comes to the outcomes of the reverse mentoring relationship as it is a fairly new intervention. We would encourage future scholars to find organizations that have successfully implemented reverse mentoring. As the workforce continues to age and younger generations keep on joining the workforce, we would encourage future scholars to empirically test the propositions offered in this article about the work outcomes of a multigenerational workforce.

ChaudhuriS-2016.jpgDr. Chaudhuri is currently a lecturer at the University of Minnesota, where she also earned her Ph.D. in human resource development. Her research interests are related to different aspects of human resource development practices and its impact on organizational outcomes including organizational commitment and employee engagement. Dr. Chaudhuri has conducted and published research studies on training outsourcing, work-life balance, cross-cultural leadership, and mentoring. Her co-authored research on ‘Reverse Mentoring’ has been quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Canadian Broadcasting, Financial Times, and one of the leading world news channels.

R. Ghosh (Release July 14, 2017).jpgDr. Ghosh is currently an associate professor at Drexel University. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Louisville, and her MBA at the Somaiya Institute of Studies and Research in Mumbai. Dr. Ghosh’s focused research interests include mentoring and leader development, workplace incivility, and workplace learning and development. She has over twenty article publications in journals such as Advances in Developing Human Resources, the Journal of Management Development, and Career Development International.

Are We Teaching What Employers Want?

[We’re pleased to welcome author Ellen McArthur of Griffith University, who recently published an article in the Journal of Marketing Education entitled, “The Employers’ View of “Work-Ready” Graduates: A Study of Advertisements for Marketing Jobs in Australia.” The article is co-authored by Krzysztof Kubacki, Bo Pang, and Celeste Alcaraz, also of Griffith University. Below, McArthur discusses key findings of the study:]

Innovative research by Griffith University into graduate job advertisements in Australia shows employers value the personal traits of job candidates more highly than degree qualifications. The study, which is the largest of its kind into graduate jobs in marketing, raises questions about the purpose of a degree, and whether universities are preparing students to be “work-ready”.

While the study focussed on marketing jobs, the findings have relevance for all academic disciplines. The most frequently required attributes were “soft skills” that are not specific to marketing, including motivation, time management, attention to detail, and teamwork. Superior communication skill, particularly writing talent, was also highly demanded, and it was only after the calls for these generic abilities that occupation-specific skills began to rank.

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Among occupation-specific abilities, digital marketing was the most needed, including search engine optimisation, Google Analytics, AdWords, and creating and curating social media content for a range of platforms. Other demanded skills included project management, marketing communications, sales, and customer service and customer relationship management (CRM).

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Some 48.5% of ads called for applicants with experience. This significant figure suggests the need for far greater integration of undergraduate study with initiatives that deliver hands-on practice, including internships, work integrated learning, and practice-based assessments.

General IT skills and a high level of computer literacy are important pre-requisites for applying for marketing positions. Experience in MS Office, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, was specified in almost one in three ads, followed by Adobe Suite, InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. Though students may use these programs ad hoc, such strong demand suggests the need to embed this software use into courses as explicit learning outcomes.

A marketing degree specifically was required in only half the sample of advertisements, with communication, psychology, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics also providing pathways into marketing roles. This reflects the cross-disciplinary nature of marketing careers in the twenty-first century.

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The Employers’ View of “Work-Ready” Graduates: A Study of Advertisements for Marketing Jobs in Australia’, content analysed 359 graduate advertisements (83,000 words) for careers in marketing posted on Australia’s top jobs website in a six-month period in 2016. Full time employment rates for Australian graduates have dropped to new lows, and the research aimed to identify the specific skills and attributes demanded by employers for graduate level jobs in marketing.

The study won a Best Paper Award at ANZMAC in 2016. Click here to read the full article for a limited time.

Griffith University is based in South-east Queensland, Australia, and ranks in the top 3% of universities globally, with more than 50,000 students across five campuses.

Dr. Ellen McArthur, who led the research project, said “large samples of job advertisements are perhaps the most valid way to study employers’ needs, but they are rarely used for employability research.”

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Lessons from history: What the Dutch East India Company can teach us about modern-day organizational slack

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Stoyan V Sgourev of ESSEC Business School, France and Wim van Lent of Montpellier Business School, France, who recently published the article When too many are not enough: Human resource slack and performance at the Dutch East India Company (1700‒1795) in Human Relations.] 
HUM 70_1_Cover_ONLINE1.inddIt is only recently that scholars started to inquire into whether it makes sense to employ more workers than needed to attend to routine operations but the question appears to be much older than recognized.

As a pioneer of intercontinental trade and the largest employer in the Dutch Republic, the Dutch East India Company (1602 ‒1795) needed a large workforce to maintain and develop its shipping network. The rapid expansion of its merchant fleet in the early 18th century exhausted the local labor supply, forcing the Company to hire unskilled foreign sailors. Our analysis of data from the Dutch East India Company archives confirms that skill shortage resulted in deteriorating operational and financial performance. We find that the Dutch East India Company’s directors addressed the problem by “overmanning” the ships (boarding more sailors than what is operationally required), when foreign sailors prevailed in the ranks. The analysis attests that the Dutch East India Company’s reliance on extra sailors involved a direct trade-off, as it enhanced operational reliability (by reducing the probability of losing the ship at sea), but reduced operational efficiency  (by prolonging the length of voyages, as the ships were heavier and the crews were less experienced).

In view of the underlying trade-off between speed and safety, the Dutch East India Company’s efforts to mitigate the negative effects of skill shortage were only partly successful. The use of extra sailors to offset the adverse effects of unskilled labor was a natural solution at a time when formal training was inadequate while cheap, unskilled labor was available. But the documented trade-off has contemporary resonance. Scholarship suggests that firms can balance between effectiveness and efficiency in reaching optimum performance, yet our analysis advises caution as to the extent to which organizational practices can be optimized. The Dutch East India Company directors faced the same need to balance competing pressures for efficiency and reliability as contemporary managers, and the same difficulty of identifying the coveted optimal point.

The findings also serve as a reminder that, even when overall successful, gradual adaptation may not be sufficient to resolve long-standing problems. The documented practice was an adaptive, stopgap measure that evolved from practical experience and that functioned well under the existing constraints. It alleviated the problem of skill shortage, but in the long run, it did not help resolve the structural problems that brought about the Dutch East India Company’s demise toward the end of the 18th century.

Two centuries later, the Dutch East India Company remains a source of insights into processes of adaptation and change. Similar to contemporary managers, the Dutch East India Company directors struggled to achieve a balance between operating efficiently and retaining surplus resources, necessary to address unexpected threats and opportunities. It was the first company to internationalize its workforce and confront the difficulties of operating in multiple locations, but not the last one to have found these difficulties more persistent than expected. In some respects, management practice has not changed much since the 18th century.

You can read  When too many are not enough: Human resource slack and performance at the Dutch East India Company (1700‒1795) from Human Relations free until the end of March by clicking here.

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How Great Leadership Communication Yields Positive Job Satisfaction Scores

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Julian Erben of the University of Koblenz-Landau and Frank Schneider of the University of Mannheim. Erben and Schneider recently published an article in the International Journal of Business Communication entitled “In the Ear of the Beholder: Self-Other Agreement in Leadership Communication and Its Relationship With Subordinates’ Job Satisfaction,” co-authored by Michaela Maier. From Erben and Schneider:]

There is no doubt that effective leadership communication is one of the key factors for an organization’s success. But how good is leadership communication in the reality of everyday business? To answer this question, it’s not enough to rely solely on leaders’ self-ratings. Armed with a new instrument to assess the perceived quality of a leaders’ communication from the leaders own perspective and the perspective of their respective subordinates, we 17124643767_c7e281926f_z.jpgwere curious to explore how the perception of leadership communication within a leader-subordinate dyad may differ, and how different perceptions are related to concrete organizational outcomes.

The findings in this study underline the importance of taking into consideration both leader and subordinate perceptions of leadership communication. Results show, that they may in fact differ, and whether they differ or not is substantially related to relevant outcomes. It particularly points out the desirability of congruent positive perceptions of leadership communication as it appears to be a clear indicator of high job satisfaction of subordinates.

This has practical implications for the teaching and training of leadership communication, especially the importance of developing supervisory training programs that enhance the communicative behaviors of leaders and at the same time make them more perceptive for how their subordinates see things.

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Image attributed to David Sanabria (CC)

Do Employers Forgive Applicants’ Bad Spelling in Resumes?

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Christelle Martin-Lacroux of the University of Grenoble and Alain Lacroux of the University of Toulon. They recently published an article in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly entitled “Do Employers Forgive Applicants’ Bad Spelling in Resumes?,”which is currently free to read through BCQ. From Martin-Lacroux and Lacroux:]

It is now well established that students’ spelling deficiencies are increasing and that this has become a growing concern for employers, whcorrecting-1870721_1280.jpgo now consider correct spelling and grammar as one of the most important skills needed by organizations. Despite the significant amount of time spent on writing at work and employers’ growing dissatisfaction with their employees’ spelling skills, little is known about recruiters’ attribution and decision making when they read application forms with spelling errors. Our paper in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly contributes to fill this gap by describing how spelling mistakes in application forms have a detrimental impact on applicants’ chance to be shortlisted. Our findings rely on an experiment on 536 professional recruiters who had to assess application forms varying in their form (presence or absence of spelling errors) and their content (high or low level of professional experience). We found that spelling errors and work experience have a strong impact on recruiters’ shortlisting decisions. All things being equal, the odds of rejecting an application form were 3.65 times higher when the form was error laden, whereas the odds of rejecting an application form were 2.7 times higher when the form indicated a low level of work experience. Not surprisingly, the recruiter’ spelling ability influence their decision to reject or not an application form from the selection process.  For example, the odds of rejecting an error-laden application form when assessed by a recruiter with weak spelling abilities were two times lower than the odds of rejecting this form when evaluated by a recruiter with strong spelling abilities. We made another interesting finding that applicants need to be aware of: the number of spelling errors did not influence the recruiters’ decision. Application forms can be rejected even with very few spelling errors.

In conclusion, applicants do need to be vigilant about the potential negative impression they make on recruiters with a faulty application form: few spelling errors can be as detrimental as a lack of professional experience!

Please find the full abstract to the article below:

Spelling deficiencies are becoming a growing concern among employers, but few studies have quantified this phenomenon and its impact on recruiters’ choice. This article aims to highlight the relative weight of the form (the spelling skills) in application forms, compared with the content (the level of work experience), in recruiters’ judgment during the selection process. The study asked 536 professional recruiters to evaluate different application forms. The results show that the presence of spelling errors has the same detrimental impact on the chances of being shortlisted as a lack of professional experience, and recruiters’ spelling skills also moderate their judgment.

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Photo under (CC) license. 

Organizational Demands on Productivity, Innovations, and Safety

[We’re pleased to welcome author Marianne Törner of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She recently published an article in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled “Coping With Paradoxical Demands Through an Organizational Climate of Perceived Organizational Support: An Empirical Study Among Workers in Construction and Mining Industry” co-authored by Anders Pousette, Pernilla Larsman, and Sven Hemlin. From Törner:]

Most organJABS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgizations must be able to combine efficiency, innovativeness, and safe and healthy working conditions, but these demands may appear paradoxical to the employees, and if not handled well by the organization, such paradoxes may create stressful goal conflicts. A large amount of research, not least organizational climate research, has focused on how organizations may promote each one of these goals, but we believe there is a need for research that may help organizations to effectively and simultaneously attain different goals. This was the starting point for this study where we investigated how organizations may support the employees’ ability to reconcile conflicting goals, and thereby promote organizational success as well as employee well-being and sense of worth.

The abstract to their article is below:

Organizational demands on productivity, innovations, and safety may seem paradoxical. How can the organization support employees to cope with such paradox? Based on organizational climate measures of safety, occupational health, innovativeness, and production effectiveness, we explored if a second-order organizational climate could be identified, that was associated with staff safety, health, innovations and team effectiveness, and if such a climate could be represented by an organizational climate of perceived organizational support (POS). Questionnaire data were collected from 137 workgroups in four Swedish companies in construction and mining. Analyses (structural equation modeling) were done at the workgroup level and a split sample technique used to investigate relations between climates and outcomes. A general second-order organizational climate was identified. Also, an organizational climate constructed by items selected to represent POS, was associated with team effectiveness, innovations, and safety. A POS-climate may facilitate employees’ coping with paradoxes, and provide a heuristic for managers in decision making.

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A Space for Place in Business Communication Research

As technology allows more employees to have a “mobile” workplace, what happens to effective business communication overall? Should more businesses adopt an open-concept floor-plan to foster better collaboration?

Author Deborah Andrews of the University of Delaware addresses the emerging millennial habits of group collaboration and workplace design in her recently published article in the International Journal of Business Communication entitled “A Space for Place in Business Communication Research.” From Andrews:

I’m inspired a lot by things, by objects and spaces and what they can make happen. For ye2392869301_65bb870ab9_m.jpgars, too, I have focused my research and teaching on business communication. So when my university started talking about the new “integrated science and engineering” laboratory it was building to fosterinnovation and creativity through collaboration, I wondered: can a building do this? Curious, I looked at some other campuses and, sure enough, many such buildings were being constructed and promoted with similar rhetoric. Because it’s essentially a matter of communication, I was particularly interested in the many occurrences of collaboration in these statements about how the building would deliver on its promise. I saw that term invoked as well in real estate columns, the marketing reports of design consultancies, and popular business articles about new offices being created, for example, by Google, Facebook, and Amazon. I knew then that I had an enticing research project: matching the rhetoric of these new laboratories and offices to results on the ground.

It’s becoming a commonplace of material culture studies that objects create subjects, the things we live with make us the people we are, maybe even more than the other way around. But I’ve been surprised about the extent to which academic administrators, corporate CEOs, and entrepreneurs believe that the right arrangement of plan and furnishings in an office can foster the achievement of organizational goals.

Examining that fit between the rhetoric of the office or lab as a transformative space and results on the ground is an inviting area for communications research. As one anthropologist notes, we often overlook the things in our environment because they are “blindingly obvious.” We take them for granted. My International Journal of Business Communication article aims to encourage researchers to take another look at the physical environment of a 21st Century workplace as it relates to the communication needed to get work done there. We know that the environment shapes us. But can it shape us in desired ways? And how can we tell?

 

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Office image attributed to Jesus Corrius (CC).