Entrepreneurs have no shortage of things to think about. How much thought have you given to how you are going to effectively transfer knowledge from one generation to another for the sustainability of your business? What type of work-life balance will the people who work for you expect, particularly with all the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic? If you are an investor, how critical is it that a company have a diverse workforce?

Prince William County’s Department of Economic Development (PWCDED) is providing business owners, investors, residents, and developers with some insights into these challenging questions through The New Frontier: Investment and Growth in Prince William County, a 10-episode webinar series that focuses on the county’s business environment and investment opportunities.

Several episodes focus on the workforce, particularly its multigenerational span, diversity, and what the expectations are versus the realities for a healthy work-life balance.

Generations in the Workforce

Do you know how many generations are in today’s workforce? Would you believe five? From the Silent Generation (ages 76-94) through Gen Z (ages 11-25) with the Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials in between, people of all ages are working together across industries.

Are they really working together though? In Episode 1, 5 Generations in the Workforce, Warren Wright, founder and CEO of Second Wave Learning, weighed in on why looking at the multiple generations in today’s workforce should matter. “Three out of four employees feel that generational differences get in the way of a productive work group.”

Another panelist, Elizabeth Fuchs, vice president of human resources for Systems & Technology Research, emphasized how critical it is to know the people who work for you as individuals. “It’s essential to recognize these generational differences exist and have an effect, but it’s also really important for a manager to know that not every person in a generation is going to embody the stereotypes of that generation. It’s equally important to know the people who work with you as individuals.”

Workforce Diversity

In Episode 2, Workforce Diversity: The Greatest Asset to Business and Society, panelists explore what recent research reveals about today’s workforce. “Companies with high-diversity scores derive 45% of revenue from innovative products and services versus 26% for companies with only average diversity scores.” Why is that? Panelists discuss the importance of making a diverse workforce a business imperative rather than just a “nice to have” element of a company’s business goals.

Maria Burgos, equity and inclusion officer for Prince William County Government, emphasized that learning to be a “social chameleon” is a skill that people are often forced to learn. If people within a company are sitting across the table from people who look like them and have similar life experiences as them, then there are fewer opportunities for new ideas, said Milton Perkins, senior vice president of ActOne Government Solution, Inc. “In a truly diverse, inclusive, multicultural workplace, people can show up as their authentic selves.”

Work-Life Balance

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen everyone’s work-life balance become upended with the lines blurring more and more. So now many people are asking the questions: When are you truly working and when are you off the clock?

In Episode 5, Work-Life Balance: Creating New Roles for Work and Home, the panel discussed how companies are facing a likely permanent hybrid workforce, meaning that people are working some of the time in person and some of the time virtually.

What does work-life balance even mean then? “Work is your narrow focus, and life is your broader focus,” said Eliyahu Lotzar, CEO and founder of Reframed Reality. “Work-life balance is the point at which you need motivation for doing either and the efficiency at doing it changes. If you cannot focus on either of those things properly, then you don’t have balance.”

To ensure that everyone in a company feels that their work and life are in balance, all layers of an organization must be involved. The individual comes at it from a very grassroots place. They need to set boundaries and understand their relationship with time and flexibility. Managers need to make sure their teams can communicate about those boundaries. And executives need to make sure that they are not working with an outdated mindset.

According to a Forbes article at the start of the pandemic, 26% of work is accomplished beyond normal work hours. That statistic suggests that many companies do not offer optimum work-life options for their employees, but also that people may lack enough self-awareness to set the boundaries that are right for them. 

The next episode in the webinar series, How Multiculturalism Makes a Community Uniqueis scheduled for September 23 at 2 p.m. Tune in to learn more.

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