It’s Good to Know Who You’re Working With
We’re part of a very different workplace these days. It started before the pandemic, but the demands of working through it seem to have shined a light on our expanded diversity. Or maybe I’m just noticing it more because of where I am in my career and life – teetering in the void between Generation X and Millennials – half classic 1980s Duran Duran and the other half early 1990s Rage Against the Machine.
HM Insurance Group (HM) is the proud work-home to a diverse mix of Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Zs. Harnessing the power of the diversity in this “new” workplace where we all function requires effort and intention. It is more important than ever that we respond to our new way of working by respecting the needs of everyone in the organization. This helps to ensure a continued high level of commitment to our work. The result: an engaged workforce, best positioned to serve our customers and achieve our goals. But we cannot lose sight – regardless of generational differences – that there is no suitable replacement for good ol’ fashioned face-to-face interaction.
The Diverse Workforce
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) now make up 35% of the workforce – and it will be 75% by 2030. Gen X (1965-1980) comprises 33% of current workers. Gen Z (1997-2012) is entering the job pool now too – though currently at just 5%.
We certainly cannot count out the older workers either – they’re staying in the workforce longer, with Baby Boomers (1946-1964) still accounting for a quarter of people in the workplace and even a few (2%) members of “the Silent Generation” (born before 1946) potentially hopping on video conferences with us each day as well.
While it’s interesting to delve into all the things each “Generation” is said to hold firmly at their core, these stereotyped groupings ultimately add very little to what we already know: we all have different backgrounds, experiences, skills, strengths and things that “make us tick.” In a nutshell, we’re all DIFFERENT.
It seems that having a work-from-home option is essential now, and that’s not likely to change. So, for all who enjoy working from the comfort of your living room and do not miss seeing smiling and familiar faces every day, you are definitely feeling fulfilled the last few years. Not much more needs to be done to address your needs. (I do enjoy some good work-from-home time myself too – just me, my flip-flops and my menagerie in the room called the “home office.”) Many hard-working and trusted employees can be very engaged in this environment.
For others, however, being physically isolated is not the solution – and many, like me, crave at least some variation. Surprisingly, what I have found most interesting at HM’s in-person gatherings over the last year – both internal meetings and those with our clients – is that many people do not realize the value of in-person interaction until they’re in-person and interacting.
Regardless of whether people are craving in-person encounters, or whether they may currently not see the immediate value, it is important to set up opportunities to bring employees together and back into office spaces and other group settings. This time together and meaningful interaction both ensures a deeper engagement for those benefitting from the need for interaction and fosters a feeling of being part of a team. This also extends to in-person meetings with partners and clients. Being connected is important and possible through a variety of communication formats, but there’s definitely something to be said for talking non-digital-face-to-non-digital-face and spending time with each other.
Will these interactions happen organically in a mostly virtual workforce? As we might say in Jersey, fuhgeddaboudit. Engagement in a post-pandemic U.S. takes intentional action and real effort. That effort has to come from both those who want and need the interaction to feel more engaged and from management in terms of planning and supporting these opportunities for the believers, indifferent, skeptics, cynics and naysayers alike.
How do we do this? By taking the time to understand people’s needs and the ways in which they like to work – and finding common ground. This goes for both our in-house team and our business partners. It’s hard work maintaining strong connections – we all learn this as we get older and busier in our work and personal lives.
Now, more than ever, we need to make engagement an essential part of our strategic planning process. An invested, engaged workforce is a better one. That’s a simple fact. And in our industry, where competition is high and differentiators might appear slight, a committed, people-focused team delivers a significant advantage – something that is at the absolute core of a relationship-focused company like HM Insurance Group.
For 40 years, building strong relationships has been how we do business at HM – within our walls or outside of them. We work to get to know people and what it takes to fulfill their needs. This goes for our own employees and the people with whom we do business. When you know who you’re working with – and they are engaged and ready to get things done – you can trust that the right outcomes will be achieved, together.
Sources: “A Statistical Look at Millennials in the Workplace,” Live Career, https://www.livecareer.com/resources/special-reports/stats/millennials-in-the-workplace, accessed November 7, 2022; “What the Generations Want from Work: New Data Offers Surprises,” Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/tracybrower/2022/08/28/what-the-generations-want-from-work-new-data-offers-surprises/?sh=68fd3c583f32, accessed November 11, 2022.