Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Generational awareness for interactive information societies - Sophie van der Walt

Inherited work environment of each generation - Sophie van der Walt
 The Department of Information and Knowledge Management at the University of Johannesburg presented a seminar by Sophie van der Walt, an Information Search Librarian at the University of South Africa.

She presented the seminar based on her MPhil (Information Management) studies at UJ, which she completed in April of 2010. The pretext of the study is based on four different generations active in South African interactive societies, namely Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. People who can’t be classified within a specific generation, and who falls between two of the generations, are called Cuspers.

The characteristics of the different generations are reviewed with regards work performance, work-life balance, retirement, rewards, co-worker relationships and recruitment. The study focuses specifically on academic and research libraries in the South African context. Generation Y was not included, because they are not part of the workforce at the moment. It is a direct consequence of posts being frozen for nearly ten years in these academic institutions.

It is very interesting to see how the different generations react to work, the workplace, as well as to each other. The research aims to enhance co-worker relationships by identifying differences based on generations. It has the potential to facilitate management in how they approach the different generations in their staff complement. When you know how to reward your staff, you will be able to retain them for longer as well as ensure the future with middle and top managers.

The aging workforce has been identified as one of the challenges in these academic institutions. Succession planning needs to take it into account. Nearly 51% of the workforce is near retirement.
The basis of the seminar can be found in the following article, which has been published in the South African Journal of Information Management.

I think we can extrapolate the findings of this research to our own information societies in the corporate workplace. We face the same challenges with regards an aging workforce. We can also spend more time looking at generational differences, rather than only looking at cultural differences.

Who finds the same type of situation in your information libraries or archives?

Karen du Toit
Afrikaans Archivist
SABC Radio Archives

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