Intergenerational learning in organizations (IGLOO) - Summary of by SonnyWoodcock


									Summary of the IGLOO literature report
Reingard Spannring                                    

                     IGLOO PROJECT

                 Intergenerational learning in
             - Summary of the LITERATURE REPORT -

                                         Reingard Spannring
                                         University Innsbruck
                                              July 2008

IGLOO project                                                                Page /6
Summary of the IGLOO literature report
Reingard Spannring                                            

                 Intergenerational Learning in Organisations (IGLOO)

The rationale for igloo is partly rooted in the need of the labour market to establish a
new balance between the generations. With companies restructuring and the trend
towards early retirement, the participation of older people has declined. At the same
time their proportion will increase in future due to demographic changes. By 2015
22% of the working age population will consist of older people, and by 2030 this fig-
ure will rise to 28%. Simultaneously, the youngest age group will decline by 11%
from 2000 to 2015 and continue to do so by 6% until 2030. All these factors contrib-
ute to a possible lack of workforce in the future which is detrimental to individual
companies as well as the economy at large.

According to the EQUAL report the EU has been failing to use its full human re-
source potential. Employability of workers has not been fostered with as much en-
ergy as would have been necessary, in particular with respect to segments of the
older workforce, which have traditionally become marginalised from mainstream em-
ployment for a variety of complex reasons such as pressures for early retirement,
perceived skill needs, changing forms of work organisation. At the same time, young
people find it increasingly difficult to enter the labour market because they lack ex-

Intergenerational learning in organisations is a means of responding to labour mar-
ket inequality by increasing cross-age participation in training and in the labour mar-
ket. Older workers’ skills and the competences of young labour market entrants
must both be valued and enhanced by complementing and inspiring each other.

Generational imbalance not only harms the economy and society at large, but also
companies and individual employees. There is a risk that the skills and knowledge
of older workers is lost in many ways when they retire. In particular, tacit knowledge
tends to be lost for the company, younger workers do not benefit from such skills for
their career development and the motivational and productive benefits of intergen-
erational learning are not exploited. However, this problem also occurs as a result of
poor intergenerational relationships at the workplace.

Research has indicated that different generations exhibit different learning styles,
different working styles and different value priorities. While the ageing sector of the
workforce is highly experienced, work-oriented and stable in employment, younger
employees are increasingly mobile, exhibit less organisational commitment, but are
entrepreneurial and technologically literate. In contrast to the social communitarian
outlook of ageing workers, young workers are fuelled by a propensity towards self-
fulfilment and the pre-eminence of the self. These differences in approaches and
attitudes to work may result in intergenerational conflict that compromises organisa-
tional performance. Misunderstandings and strife from intergenerational conflict are
particularly acute in times of reorganisation and downsizing, where members of dif-

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Summary of the IGLOO literature report
Reingard Spannring                                           

ferent groups view each other with suspicion and antipathy as they compete for
fewer and fewer jobs. Failure to acknowledge and adjust for generational differ-
ences can affect employee productivity, innovation and corporate citizenship, result-
ing in problems with employee retention and turnover. Organisations must therefore
seek to optimise the talents of all age groups, reconciling differences in the work-
place, educating and developing employees to utilise this diversity for individual and
organisational advantage, and creating new organisational cultures that value and
optimise generational diversity.

Multi-generational teams enable reciprocal knowledge exchange for innovation. This
extends the role of intergenerational teams beyond the unilateral transfer of knowl-
edge from the expert to the less experienced, for skill development and training of
the latter. Such teams facilitate the unlocking of the dormant knowledge possessed
but no longer recognised or utilised, by experts. Here, the younger less experienced
workers appear to act as catalysts for unlocking and leveraging the knowledge base
of experienced workers that might otherwise remain largely “forgotten”, and thereby,
underutilised if they had merely worked with their peers.

Work places for intergenerational learning
The workplace is a specific social setting which, in principle, offers diverse kinds of
learning opportunities and experiences such as in-company training seminars and
courses, which take place off the job (and perhaps outside working hours); explicit
training episodes taking place on the job (and therefore in working hours); non-
formal and informal learning, in which the work process itself constitutes a continu-
ous learning experience. This latter form can be analytically subdivided into forms of
learning and forms of working. Forms of learning include counselling, communities
of practice, quality circles and learning on demand. The enrichment of learning op-
portunities in workplaces and work processes is the key feature. Forms of working
place the emphasis on learning through work experience itself, such as project
work, group work, job rotation, continuous processes of improvement and networks.
Learning conduciveness can also mean creating new learning spaces. Further train-
ing in work organisations can often be readily located in spaces close to real work
process. The “open lab”, for example, enables colleagues to meet up at agreed
times to observe and analyse on the spot, thus acquiring direct understanding of
their colleagues’ perspectives and knowledge. Here, learning spaces are neither the
workspace nor the classroom, and the trainers are colleagues, possibly with exter-
nal support. In such contexts, pedagogic relations fuse with collegial relations.

Learning-conducive workplaces include the following features: adequate information
on the aims and meaning of job tasks; effective participation in the specification of
the aims, the planning and organisation of the work; opportunities for control and
improvement; variable, complex but also manageable tasks; feedback on success
and achievement; opportunities for communication and cooperation; opportunities
for cognitive and emotional reflection.

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Summary of the IGLOO literature report
Reingard Spannring                                           

Social relations and group dynamics at work – and this is where the aspect of inter-
generational relations comes in - may also depress or foster motivation to learn. Ide-
ally, the process of workplace learning is based on relationships of trust and the
mandate to act, cooperate and learn for all members of the given community of
practice. Power and influence in organisations is important, not only with respect to
personal relationships (e.g., who can make somebody else do something, who can
set the agenda) but also with respect to the recognition, interpretation and applica-
tion of structures. Awareness of power relations can increase the ability to change
views of the world and everyday routines and thus to learn.

The forms and possibilities of intergenerational learning in organisations can be di-
vided into two categories. One involves a hierarchic yet benevolent relationship be-
tween an experienced and an inexperienced person as is the case in apprentice-
ships, mentoring and tutoring. The other category would include forms of intergen-
erational learning which open up a non-hierarchic space for mutual exchange, sup-
port, cooperative problem solving and learning.

Apprenticeships can be defined as matching someone who is proficient in a skill,
usually an adult, with someone who is interested in learning that skill, usually an
adolescent. They have made for effective learning arrangements throughout much
of human history, because the process is contextually rich, feedback from the mas-
ter is frequent and immediate; the end product is socially valued, and learning is ho-
listic. The novice can see the piece of work at its present stage and the evolution
into the whole by observing and entirely taking part in the process of the craft.

Many researchers and practitioners challenge the understanding of organisational
learning as a unilateral transfer of knowledge from experts to less experienced per-
sonnel for effective organisational learning. Concepts such as “experts”, “wisdom”,
and “knowledge worker” imply that experienced workers are more knowledgeable
and, thus, more valuable to learning than the novice. However, such language and
its associated power structures may impede upward and horizontal learning. Giving
primacy to the expert ignores the rapidly shifting definition of who the knowledge-
rich are in times of discontinuous change, deters reciprocal intergenerational learn-
ing between those who have different hierarchical positions and experience levels
associated with varying levels of knowledgeability; and excludes certain categories
of workers from the organisational learning process.

A model that tries to avoid hierarchies is dialogic mentoring, a tool that helps novice
professionals to settle in a work community with less stress. Rather than being or-
ganised as a one-to-one relationship between the novice and the more experienced
colleague, dialogic mentoring is organised in groups. The group situation increases
the richness of experience by encouraging exploration, experimentation and risk
taking, through which problems and contradictions raised by daily practices can be
challenged, individual sense-making, positioning in the community, self-confidence

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Summary of the IGLOO literature report
Reingard Spannring                                             

and self-motivation can be facilitated.

Another approach that focuses on the creation of horizontal learning space is con-
structive communication. It aims to create exceptional relationships that avoid the
stereotypes, judgments, defensiveness, fear and a priori decisions about who
counts. To do so requires attention to the power of positive framing (conversations
do not need to be about what our problems and needs are, but about how we can
harness our capacities to make our lives and communities more vital; stating af-
firmatively what we value, what we hope, what we want, enables us as well as oth-
ers to understand and act on behalf of that vision), on inspiring questions (honest,
open questions, asked in a spirit of friendship and genuine interest, enrich and
deepen dialogue, stimulate learning and shared understanding) and active listening
(i.e. a genuine dialogue in which we honour each other, acknowledge each other’s
expertise but also vulnerability, and cultivate the trust that allows for something new
to happen).

All learning is relational. Intergenerational learning in particular implies shifting the
focus to relationships and the structures that support or impede trustful, communica-
tive, supportive, creative and cooperative relationships between generations. There-
fore, intergenerational learning programmes need to cultivate caring relationships, in
which each party has much to offer and much to gain from the interchange.

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Summary of the IGLOO literature report
Reingard Spannring                                   

             IGLOO project

This project has been funded with support from the European
  Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the
 views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held
responsible for any use which may be made of the information
 IGLOO project         contained therein.                                  Page 6/6

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