This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
By way of natural evolution, most companies are made up of a mixture of "experienced" and "fresh perspective" employees. Each group is characterized by their own unique talents, but are often left with little guidance for how to maximize their interactions with one another.
For the sake of the article, "experienced" employees refer to individuals who have spent most of their career working in a discrete number of related roles, oftentimes within the same company or industry, and possess a wealth of historical knowledge and context. By contrast, "fresh perspective" employees are new to roles that force an extension of their established skills and knowledge, either the result of switching industries or pursuing different career paths altogether.
Traditional workplace culture has led us to believe that experience meets fresh perspective in a classic battle of wills. In actual fact, these employee groups create a culture of complement rather than conflict. Today's most successful organizations foster environments where the work and values of experienced employees are enhanced by a healthy influx of fresh talent, and vice versa.
A culture of complement
Among their many well-developed skills, experienced employees carry invaluable information about an organization's past. They were present for the major events in company history and helped establish the current benchmarks for success. When charting a forward-looking course, "how we got here" is just as important as "where we're going," and these employees are key to that legacy information.
Their brand of historic experience is offset by the varied experiences of fresh perspective employees. Coming from all different walks of life, these individuals validate their past learnings through meaningful application in new settings. They are often seen as the proponents of change, and push for new processes that inspire different ways of thinking. However, much of their success comes from knowing how to adapt their fresh outlook to fit the current milieu.
Curbing fresh perspective through learning
About two years ago, I took one of the biggest professional leaps of my career by accepting a position in an industry unknown to me. My new role required me to lead cross-functional change, which I was used to doing, but without the important context of organizational background.
Payment processing is a business many of us know in only a superficial sense: you put your credit card into the terminal, wait for something to happen, and walk out of the store with purchase in hand. As it turns out, that "something" is pretty sophisticated. I knew that my potential to add value to the company depended on how quickly I assumed the role of student.
So I did my research. I spent time with more experienced peers across the business and met with leaders at all levels. I learned about what was done in the past and how we had gotten to the current state, and what needed to be done differently in the future.
This period of learning gave me the understanding I needed to implement change that not only addressed the immediate needs of the organization, but prepared it for the future. In setting the groundwork for future change, I was able to leverage my past experiences that reflected my personal style of leadership. In the end, I built credibility as a leader by showing respect for the contributions of experienced employees while also demonstrating the value of my fresh perspective.
Creating a shared vision
Regardless of the nature or length of their employment, a shared vision helps employees connect their individual contributions to the future of the organization. This is especially important in organizations with a high integration of experienced and fresh perspective employees. In these cases, leaders can endorse beliefs and behaviours that nurture respect for all employees' contributions across the organization.
Fresh perspective employees need to be especially transparent about introducing change of any kind to the organization. They need to make concerted efforts to understand why things are the way they are and then assess realistic opportunities for change. Wherever it makes sense, they should leverage what was done in the past and engage the expertise of experienced groups to improve upon it.
On the flip side, experienced employees need to realize that change is not a sign of personal failure or a criticism of previous work. There are many external forces that necessitate change, including market shifts and emerging innovation. They need to welcome a fresh perspective for exactly what it is – an objective viewpoint enriched by experiences that could have only been cultivated outside of the organization.
My own personal experience speaks to the necessity of striking the right balance between experience and fresh perspective. To realize the most beneficial change to your organization, you need to temper the influence of one with the other. If not, you are missing out on a key ingredient of success – by disregarding the important lessons of the past, or failing to shape a fully inspired future.
Denise Hayes is chief human resources officer at Moneris (@Moneris), one of North America's largest processors of debit and credit card payments. Ms. Hayes leads talent management, leadership development and succession planning strategies, and influences the development of corporate values and ethics at Moneris.