Senior Pros: Succeeding in a Multi-Generational Workplace

April 2020 Marked PRSA NJ’s First Virtual Expert Panel

Since COVID-19 canceled in-person meetings, PRSA NJ members came together virtually on April 22 to explore the PR industry’s latest multigenerational workplace trends.

During the Virtual Expert Panel, participants heard from successful communications leaders about the challenges and rewards of leading a diverse workforce, and to engage in an interactive group discussion. Pam Golden, President and Founder of GLA Communications , kept up a lively conversation between panelists and online participants in her role as moderator.

The electronic session on “Succeeding in a Multi-Generational Workplace,” was made possible by Lubetkin Media Companies, LLC, and featured comments and insights from four experienced public relations experts:

  • Beth Kitzinger, Vice President at Chalonera national search firm focused exclusively on communications, public relations, and marketing recruitment.
  • Anjelica Sena, Manager, Global Communications, Prudential Financial, Inc. and President, PRSA NJ.
  • Andrea Smith, Andrea Smith Media LLC, Award-Winning Technology Reporter, Producer, Consultant and Speaker
  • Ken Jacobs, Principal at Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching, and PRSA NJ’s Board Director for Senior Professional programs

The panel began by acknowledging how quickly the Coronavirus pandemic had revived long-standing debates over working off-site, age bias, and better communications among colleagues from different generations.  Ken Jacobs of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Counseling said the abrupt shift to remote work made employees of all ages more aware of the importance of staying connected, noting that “reaching out is such an important thing to do” in the new environment.

Ken Jacobs
Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching

Ken also told the participants that it is not wrong for today’s young pros to ask employers why a work assignment is important. Those staff members want to know that their contributions have a meaningful impact on the success of the company.

Andrea Smith of Andrea Smith Media LLC

Andrea Smith of Andrea Smith Media observed that sharing ideas and projects one-on-one with remote team members can help managers appreciate the diverse mix of skills and experience co-workers bring to an organization. However, she acknowledged there are times when younger staff may wrongly assume that older workers don’t understand the latest technology or target audiences.

Anjelica Sena of Prudential Financial, and President of PRSA NJ

PRSA NJ President Anjelica Sena from Prudential Financial said too many stereotypes distort the true abilities and potential of all generations, young and old. For example, Millennial employees — who some senior colleagues mischaracterize as “entitled” — are often very ambitious to take on more challenging assignments.

Beth Kitzinger of Chaloner

Chaloner’s Beth Kitzinger agreed that mentorship within a firm was a powerful way to help senior and junior staff learn from each other about critical skills, as well as important workplace behaviors expected of professionals at every stage in their careers. Those relationships also give young pros opportunities to learn how to deal with failure and move on to future successes.

PRSA NJ members participating through the statewide video link joined the expert panel discussion throughout the morning. Many noted that PR professionals of all ages face similar challenges in the current environment of cross-industry disruption, severe job losses, and new doubts about the long-term sustainability of a “gig” economy.

Among the views expressed by the online audience:

  • Millennial employees are rightfully worried about their long-term prospects in an era of high student debt, ongoing job losses, and disruptive technology.
  • More engagement is needed between experienced supervisors and young professional staff. There is a real need for senior PR managers to share practical knowledge – such as the “Art of the Pitch” – with newcomers to the PR industry.
  • Disregard stereotypes about Millennials: “don’t assume ALL young professionals self-identify with their peers.”
  • Senior Pros increasingly share the same worries about job security as the Young Pros. Many “Boomers” today have legitimate fears of not having meaningful employment in the final years of their business careers.
  • Many older employees and consultants have valuable insights to share with colleagues, no matter what the latest technologies offer. “People are still people.”

In the end, Andrea Smith captured a central theme coming out of the group’s Virtual Expert Panel session: combining the collective knowledge of the Boomer, Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z generations is the best way to achieve good business results. Each generation can learn from the others, and together they can respond more effectively to the formidable challenges presented by a volatile global economy, insecure labor force, and runaway pandemic.

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