Healthy work cultures are the products of design, not default—and it all starts with human resources.
That was the prevailing message among leading human resources executives on Tuesday participating in the Fortune Leaders Experience Roundtable at the SAP and SuccessFactors’ SuccessConnect conference, held at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
During a lively discussion moderated by Fortune editor-in-chief Clifton Leaf, the executives explored the challenges of spanning generations of employees and embracing technology without losing the human touch. In his remarks, Leaf playfully noted that Fortune was approaching its 90th anniversary. Among attendees, the magazine certainly had competition for longevity: In attendance were executives with experience that spanned decades and employees of legacy corporate giants and relative newcomers alike. Still, members of the audience had many qualities in common—not the least of which was the willingness to embrace change in a competitive marketplace.
The executive roundtable of four dozen was tasked with addressing three challenges that are increasingly common to successful businesses: blending a multi-generational workforce, creating a company culture that nurtures employees as it serves customers, and moving toward the next level of employee relations in what some are calling “Human Experience Management.”
The participants didn’t disappoint. In the end, Leaf reduced their efforts to a working list of hypotheses:
—Values equal culture. Your values are your culture.
—Values not aligned with best practice will fail.
—The employee experience is the customer experience.
—The key to all of it is learning how to listen.
—Companies need tools to do that.
—Encourage creativity to unleash the power of your organization.
—Your mindset drives your skill set.
In a modern employment environment, which could include up to five generations working side by side, appreciating the strengths and weaknesses unique to each isn’t always easy. For example, Baby Boomers may have gone gray and miss their record albums, but they bring irreplaceable professional experience that can prove invaluable in a working environment increasingly influenced by Millennials and younger employees accustomed to the latest technology.
Getting Boomers to communicate effectively, however, can be an HR headache. Appreciating the fact that different generations communicate differently is a start, one executive said. (The roundtable was conducted on a not-for-attribution basis to encourage a free-flow of ideas.) Younger workers, for instance, tend to be more comfortable communicating through their technology.