Bridging the Gap – How Business Innovation Thrives With the Help of Five Generations

Dell EMC Canada's Kevin Connolly discusses how the company balances pursuing the kind of innovation and excitement that attracts younger employees, while also creating a stable work culture that will retain them long-term.

By , President of Commercial Sales at Dell EMC Canada

Kevin Connolly, President of Commercial Sales at Dell EMC Canada

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Any enterprise striving for success and long-term growth, planning for the “next generation” is always part of the conversation. I don’t just mean generational advancements in technology – though of course, here at Dell we’re always thinking about what the “next gen” in tech will look like –  but also the next generation of employees that will walk through the office doors. Each new hire represents an opportunity for a fresh perspective on the work you do, how you do it, and where you want it to take you.

At Dell EMC Canada, we have employees representing five different generations; from senior tenured personnel who have been with us since the early days, to young millennials who have come in straight from post-secondary education or internship programs. This allows us to draw insight from a cross-section of experiences that’s unparalleled. It’s one of the things that defines our company culture, where a diverse workforce shares a singular passion: to produce the best work possible. Learning to leverage that passion, and turning it into one of our most valuable resources is not only a big part of my role, but one of the primary goals of our company. Here is what we’ve learned along the way:


The “Generation Z” Unicorn:
When I talk about different generations working at Dell, often people’s thoughts go immediately to the youngest generation you’ll find represented in most offices, the much-discussed “Generation Z,” or millennials. This generation is seen as the drivers of  change in workplace culture, bringing in fresh, modern ideas and new approaches to problem-solving. And that’s true here at Dell. Our younger team members are often the ones who bring in novel approaches to traditional challenges, and they’re often also the ones who come with a drive to understand and engage with new technologies. Things like cloud computing, customer data analytics, and of course, new ways of leveraging social media, have taken root in our practices as a result of millennials understanding the potential of these technologies. It’s not simply that a younger, Gen Z team member might be the first person in the office to come across a new piece of tech, it’s also that they’ve grown up with a familiarity of these new approaches They are comfortable with learning the ins and outs of new tools, and when they bring them to the senior leadership team, they’re not intimidated and ready to dive right in.

This infusion of fresh blood into the organization allows us to focus on other kinds of diversity as well. We’ve seen that a large percentage of the young candidates coming on board are women, and we use that momentum as an opportunity to bake a commitment to diversity and inclusion into our company philosophy as a core value.


Early Adopter Gets the Worm:

But how does Dell, or any organization for that matter, attract this kind of young, passionate workforce? We’ve found the best approach is to leave as little up to chance as possible, and not rely on the whims of a fluctuating, attention-oriented job market to find the best candidates for our roles. We do this by partnering with educational institutions and maximizing our exposure within post-secondary organizations where students would be most attracted to our cause. Within Canada, we’ve started focusing our recruiting efforts on university programs at the University of Toronto, York University, and the University of British Columbia among others. We’re finding a fantastic pool of candidates who are coming out of programs where they’ve received very advanced training and preparation for the workforce. They’re coming into jobs with an impressive skill set and a continued desire to learn, which allows us to shorten the orientation ramp for new hires and get them into the mix quickly.

We also have a robust intern program that brings exciting candidates into our offices every summer. We make sure to give these young people real, sophisticated work to sink their teeth into while they’re here, not only because we want to ensure they have a valuable educational experience, but also because each of them has the potential to become a permanent part of the team. Recently a student used their time at Dell to conduct research into the Toronto startup community, and it’s resulted in valuable data we’re continuing to leverage today.


Workplace Changes

Bringing new generations on board at Dell doesn’t just change the kind of work we do, or the technology we’re able to leverage. It has, however, created fundamental changes to our understanding of productivity and the way we build our work culture. We’ve moved away from viewing the traditional “9-to-5” workday as a necessity for employee success, and started viewing flexibility and accommodation as assets. We understand that employees do their best work when they feel comfortable and empowered, and actionable policies like ensuring they have enough time off or the freedom to balance work with their family life go a long way to create that sense of comfort and support.

As our relationship to the workday changes, so do our workspaces. We’re seeing a different relationship with the traditional office space as younger generations find alternative ways to perform their daily tasks. At Dell, we’ve been experimenting with more open-concept layouts, mobile strategies and offsite work plans which have been very successful so far. Recognizing and responding to these types of workplace changes is an exciting part of how Dell nurtures its team.


It’s Generations, with an “S”

It’s important for leaders to remember that when we talk about generational diversity, inclusion and change in the workplace, it’s not just the youngest generations we’re talking about. Excellence is what happens when people with different backgrounds and experiences work together towards a common goal. We’ve found that it isn’t just millennials who are bringing innovative solutions and daring ideas to the table. Not by a long shot. Those who have been with us for decades are bringing the same energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity to work as their younger cohorts, and they’re able to pair that with the knowledge that only years of experience can account for. It’s important for organizations not to fall back on an overreliance on new hires to bring in new ideas, and to appreciate the unique capabilities of their senior, experienced staff.

Often, it’s neither “side” of this binary that’s doing the heavy lifting, but rather the interplay between them. Young people infuse our workspaces with modern perspectives and excitement to try new things, and our senior team members match that with experience and long-term commitment. Ultimately, both are playing off each other, drawing inspiration together and creating a better work culture. We also have an extensive mentorship program here at Dell to ensure we’re always encouraging cross-channel communication and upscaling everyone’s abilities.

Making Dell a sought-after destination for Gen Z candidates is a balancing act, pursuing the kind of innovation and excitement that will attract the younger generation, while also creating a stable and welcoming work culture that will retain them over the long haul. When I look at Generation Z, I keep in mind that someday these people will be our senior staff, and we need to find ways to keep the enthusiasm they have on their first day in the office going five, ten, or fifteen years down the line. We do this by focusing on creating a positive work culture and creating an environment where good work is encouraged organically, through collaboration, respect, and recognizing potential at every point in people’s careers.

Dell has invested a lot of time in preparing for a multigenerational workforce and we are excited for how it’s continuing to evolve. Read more here on the latest Generation Z Research we’ve released and how it’s helping our customers and partners prepare as well.