Intergenerational Organizational Learning and Education Programs

Like other aspects of multigenerational workforce planning, the concept of intergenerational learning (IGL) in the academic workplace has only received

Best-In-Class Multigenerational HR 113 limited research attention and resulted in limited initiatives in U.S. universities. In contrast, European scholars have undertaken both empirical studies and practically oriented initiatives, perhaps due to the commonality of issues pertaining to an increasingly ageing workforce in more homogenous cultures. The Age-Friendly University (AFU) initiative which we shall discuss further in the next chapter is a prominent initiative begun at Dublin City University and now involves the promising work undertaken at a number of U.S. universities. In another example, an 1GL toolkit designed to help organizations strengthen the capabilities of older workers (55 and up) was developed over two years and tested in more than 40 European organizations. The focus of the project was on assisting human resource development trainers, policy advisers, and researchers (Ropes, 2013a).

While the benefits of IGL education programs are important for individual growth, IGL improves organizational capacity by increasing the knowledge and skill levels of employees and strengthening organizational processes (Ropes, 2013a). Congruent with the philosophy underlying mentoring models, learning is not just hierarchically transmitted from older to younger generations, but is bi-directional and leads to reciprocal competence development (Ropes, 2013a). One of the primary goals of IGL is to dispel negative stereotypes, increase engagement across generational divides, and address behavioral and process-based age discrimination such as in hiring, promotion, and professional development. IGL education programs foster knowledge transfer and retention; promote innovation by applying knowledge in new ways; and lead to increased intellectual and social capital (Ropes, 2013b). In addition, education programs will increase communication and enhance socialization among generational groups.

A number of U.S. business or management schools offer short courses on leading a multigenerational workforce, but these programs are usually geared to external audiences, such as through executive education, rather than presented as in-house learning opportunities. One of the most prominent university-based institutes that promotes intergenerational education is the Boston College Center for Work and Family. This academic center seeks to bridge academic research and corporate practice for member organizations in the area of talent management, inclusive workplace cultures, enhancing employee wellbeing, and creating innovative workplace flexibility systems (Boston College Center for Work and Family, n.d.).The Center conducts extensive surveys involving large corporations focused on generational differences in the workplace and offers a rich array of resources on work/ life balance, managing a multigenerational workforce, and employee engagement and workplace experiences.

Examples of multigenerational workforce education programs in higher education are scarce, but include the 2017 University Leadership Forum offered for faculty, staff, and graduate students at the University of Kentucky titled, “Leading across Generations” (Ivey, 2017). This program focused on strategies for engaging a multigenerational workforce and building understanding of each generations perspectives on leadership, communication, technology, and work (Ivey, 2017). At Carnegie Mellon University, a seminar on “Maintaining a Cohesive Intergenerational Workforce” is offered as an integral part of its Inclusion Training Resources for faculty and staff (Carnegie Mellon University, n.d.).

Collaboration between HR and diversity offices in concert with academic affairs can lead to substantive initiatives in IGL education that focus on overcoming behavioral barriers and addressing generational and ageist stereotypes in institutional processes, such as recruitment and hiring, promotion, tenure attainment, and compensation. In the faculty arena, these programs can offer concrete approaches that will help diffuse ageist stereotypes (both positive and negative) in the classroom and ensure deeper understanding of generational cohorts.

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