Networking to combine cross-generational strengths
Creating the conditions for three or four generations to work well together is a challenge facing today’s workplaces. It’s one that bubbled up at the Great Place to Work conference in Toronto last week.
Traditionally, a workplace’s Human Resources department might take this on and would, for instance, identify why each generation is different.
An alternative approach is surfacing to discover each generation’s strengths and find ways to network them so “we have these great teams of people who are learning from each other,” says Urban Systems Ltd. CEO Martin Bell, who attended the conference.
Creating learning networks led by people at all ages and stages is seen as one way to create cross-learning. Senior and younger colleagues teach each other. It’s a two-way street.
As a networked organization, Urban Systems may have something for other companies to consider as a cultural base for this kind of exchange.
Urban Systems has a long-running commitment – starting with founder Terry McQuillan in the 1970s – to be, not so much a company that people work for, as a platform from which they contribute to communities.
If you can set up your workplace so people can be the best they can be, succeed in their own right, contribute in ways maybe they couldn’t see themselves, and let people loose, they’ll do great things, Martin says.
A networked organization, in contrast to a hierarchical one, is fuelled by conversation internally and with the broader community, including clients.
“A lot of innovation and collaboration comes from slowing down and talking to your colleagues about what you’re working on, community challenges, initiatives and how we might best contribute,” Martin says.
The best of those conversations tend to happen between people bringing diverse skills, experiences and perspectives, he adds.
Thanks to practices like these, Urban Systems is becoming a magnet for engagement on broad community issues.
As that positive vibe with the broader community grows, people with like-minded vision and values are gravitating to the company. “That’s strengthening our workplace because we’re attracting people who really are a great fit with what we’re trying to do,” Martin says.
Looking ahead, Martin says, there is a commitment to keep enabling the best contributions of those who make Urban Systems their workplace while meeting the needs of community and clients.
“We may have a bit more involved of a process than you might see in a traditional company, but it’s something we feel helps people thrive and grow. It’s something that will continue to be a focus and effort over the next year,” he says.
Publisher’s Note: Urban Systems was recently honoured with placement on the Best Workplaces in Canada list for medium-sized companies, compiled by the Great Place to Work group.
This is the ninth year in a row Urban Systems has placed in the top fifty. The placing is based on employee feedback. This year, the company ranks at #22.