The secret sauce—the strategy I have observed again and again across a wide variety of industries and company sizes—involves a combination of keeping the best, "classic" workplace practices of the past while simultaneously embracing more modern and innovative approaches to work. It mixes the "old" and the "new" in positive ways.
The best way I've found to explain this approach is with an analogy from far outside the realm of business, in the world of music.
It is the remix.
In music, of course, a remix is a song, usually a well-known classic, that has been changed from its original state by a new artist who adds, takes away, or alters the original in some way to create something both recognizable and entirely new.
In business, the remix is a positive approach to organizational change that takes practices or habits embraced by a previous generation (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, and/or Generation Xers) and adds to, removes from, or alters them in some way to better appeal to Millennials, Gen Zs, and future generations to come so we can all succeed together. The result is a workplace that mixes, matches, and blends the best of each generation's ideas and practices to design a smarter, better, more inclusive experience of work for everyone.
Producer and former DJ Briana Craig, a.k.a. Bri-Real, told me, "Some remixes take the original to the next level, and sometimes the remix becomes more popular than the original song."
This doesn't surprise me at all. I like music remixes because they celebrate the fact that I've been around for a while and they make me feel current. They offer a memory and a discovery. Music and culture writer Sharine Taylor commented to me that "a remix forces you to think outside what is comfortable. It can be both comfortable and uncomfortable." Nobody can exist in two eras at once, but remixes give us that liminal experience.
Importantly, a remix does not erase the past. Rather, in a workplace context, it involves examining the "classic" fundamentals—from management to workspaces to benefits to communication to compensation and beyond—and questioning:
* What are we doing because "it's always been done that way" that we need to stop because it no longer works?
* What are we doing because "it's always been done that way" that we should continue and add to it because it still works?
* What do we need to start doing in entirely new ways to succeed in the future?
Remixing opportunities are virtually endless and applicable to people and organizations across any industry and any current employee demographic mix. Remixes take place across organizations, inside teams, and within ourselves.
The remix is the Baby Boomer banking industry veteran who feared stagnation, so he gave up his corner office to "hot-desk" at a different spot every day to better interact with more colleagues and gain new perspectives.
The remix is the 24-year-old cosmetics industry employee who felt overlooked because of her youth, so she signed up for a reverse mentoring program that matched her with a company executive. Now she takes that senior leader on regular shopping outings to advise on what she and her Millennial peers want from a retail environment, and her opinions are impacting company strategy.
The remix is the Gen X entrepreneur who felt ignored in his corporate job, so as a side gig he created a new voice technology company based on the inspiration of two people: his two-year-old daughter, who loves interfacing with Google Home and Amazon's Alexa, and his aging immigrant mother, who equally loves these voice recognition devices.
The remix is the city pool in Galveston, Texas, that couldn't find enough teenagers interested in lifeguarding, so they started recruiting retirees instead. One, a 63-year-old former math teacher, was voted the city's best lifeguard.
Some of the remix examples you will read may feel uncomfortable (no more annual reviews?), some may feel surprising (apprenticeship is the oldest form of training people and still among the most effective!), and some may feel utterly revolutionary (transparent salaries?!). But all the strategies, tools, tactics, and recommendations presented in the coming pages are meant to position you and your organization for the realities of our increasingly
multifaceted, multigenerational world.
To be a remixer is to see today's unprecedented generational change not as a challenge but as an opportunity. The individuals and organizations that don't adapt to the changing demographics of the workplace will not have a viable future, and the individuals and organizations that do successfully remix will win—and relish—our shared tomorrow.