By Frederick Mordi
It was Pierre Diallo’s first visit to the company’s head office in Lagos. He had flown into Lagos, along with his country manager, to attend a meeting. Pierre’s colleagues had requested that he took a ‘selfie’ with the Group CEO to prove that he actually visited the firm’s head office.
And so after the meeting, Pierre sneaked in to see the big boss of the multinational company. He introduced himself to the female Secretary, who gave him a disapproving look. She asked if he was on appointment. Before Pierre could respond, the CEO breezed into the office. Pierre instantly recognised him from the company’s e-newsletters and podcasts. He quickly moved before the Secretary could stop him.
“Hi, I am Pierre Diallo from the Abidjan office. Can I take a selfie with you?”
This humorous narrative aptly mirrors the diversity that exists in today’s workplace. This diversity, which has different dimensions such as culture, language and age, can all influence the communication process in an organisation. These different dimensions of diversity often cause tension in organisations, particularly multinationals. Here, you have Pierre, who is about 23 years old and from a Francophone country, which has a different language and culture; interacting for the first time, with a female Nigerian Secretary, who is possibly in her late forties.
People of Pierre’s generation have an approach to work and life that is distinctly different from those of the older generation. They tend to be more relaxed, lackadaisical, and impulsive. You often find them listening to music from an earpiece plugged to their official laptops. That is the reason the matronly Secretary must have frowned at Pierre’s imprudence. People of her generation believe employees like Pierre lack work ethics. On the other hand, Pierre’s generation cannot seem to understand why they cannot be left alone to work in the way that best suits them. This often creates generational tension in the office.
Managing generational differences in the workplace can prove to be a challenge for multinational companies, which can have up to five generations of employees. For this reason, multinationals are paying closer attention to workplace diversity. Although there seems to be no consensus on when some generations start and stop, the following five groups are generally identified:
The Traditional School (1925 to 1945): This is the traditional ‘radio’ generation. Most members of this generation are retired pensioners, while a few are still working.
Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964): This generation, which currently sits atop the board and management of companies, derived its tag from the population explosion that followed the end of the Second World War in 1945. The older ones have retired, while those in the fifties and sixties bracket, are still in active service.
Generation X (1965 to 1980): This is the generation that is getting set to take over from the Baby Boomers. This generation values balance and diversity and have global mindset.
Generation Y (1981 to 1995). Famously referred to as ‘millennials,’ this generation, to which Pierre belongs, is reputed for its technological know-how. People like Pierre are much at home with their mobile phones which they use to surf the net and access social networking sites, even while at work. They are changing the face of business communication. But the older generations view them as a bunch of unserious people. That is why they do not often seem to get along with Generation X.
Generation Z (after 1996): Also called Generation I (for Internet) or the Net Generation, they are the generation born after the advent of the World Wide Web. They will be more tech savvy than the Generation Y because they are exposed to the net early in life.
In the next decade or so, Baby Boomer bosses will be preparing for retirement, paving the way for Generation X to succeed them. It certainly would be interesting to know how the workplace will look like when it eventually gets to the turn of Generation Y and Generation Z to head multinational corporations across the world.
That future is not too far away as Google, which was founded on September 4, 1998, has already started out implementing what many would describe as a ‘weird’ world culture. The ‘Googleplex’ reportedly offers employees free Wi-Fi-enabled buses to and from work, free meals, gym, 18 weeks of fully paid maternity leave and office crèche, and good pay package. Pierre would easily fit into this kind of company.
By Frederick Mordi
The President-elect of the United States, Donald Trump, recently appointed Adebayo Ogunlesi, a Nigerian based in the US, as a member of his Strategic and Policy Forum.
The Forum is made up of some of America’s finest and most respected corporate titans such as Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of Blackstone; Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO, JPMorgan Chase & Co; Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President/CEO, IBM; and Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO, General Electric (GE). The team members are expected to help Trump shape his ambitious economic agenda.
Ogunlesi, the surprise name on the list, has some interesting pedigree that justifies his inclusion among America’s successful business leaders. Here are 10 facts about Ogunlesi that you may find interesting:
Fact #1: Ogunlesi was born in Nigeria in 1953, and has an impressive track record of academic accomplishments, a trait that runs in the family. His father is the first Nigerian professor of medicine.
Fact #2: He is the Chairman and Managing Partner, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a New York-based independent investment fund, with worldwide interest in infrastructure financing.
Fact #3: He made the headlines in 2010 when GIP bought Gatwick Airport, London’s second largest. For this reason, he is referred to as ‘the Nigerian who bought Gatwick Airport.’
Fact #4: He is often described as one of Wall Street’s smartest money managers. Time magazine profiled him among 15 Most-promising Young Executives in its list of 2002 Global Influentials, while Fortune ranked him as the Seventh Most Powerful Black Executive in the United States.
Fact #5: He studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford University, where he bagged a bachelor’s degree with honours. He also attended Harvard Law School, where he became one of the first two editors of African descent, to serve together on the influential Harvard Law Review.
Fact #6: After leaving Harvard, he served as a law clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall from 1980 to 1983, making him the first non-American to serve in this capacity at the nation’s highest court.
Fact #7: In 1983, Ogunlesi joined the New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore. He practiced law for only nine months before he was invited for discussions by First Boston, an investment bank, which later offered him a job. It was at First Boston that he received the grooming that has today, made him highly sought after.
Fact #8: When the Credit Suisse Group acquired First Boston in 1997, the new entity was renamed Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB). The chief executive of CSFB, John Mack, once described Ogunlesi thus: “Bayo Ogunlesi is a banker of powerful intellect, integrity and innovation. He has a broad global perspective and keen understanding of complex financial transactions. Our clients worldwide have benefited greatly from his strategic insights.”
Fact#9: Despite his long years of living in Europe and America, Ogunlesi still manages to stay in touch with developments at home. He has been at the vanguard of championing African economic renaissance, which is gradually taking roots across the continent.
Fact#10: Though Ogunlesi has never had the full opportunity of working for the Nigerian government, he had served former President Olusegun Obasanjo as an adviser in an informal capacity, particularly on privatisation matters.
Ogunlesi, no doubt, is an inspiration to this generation, and his appointment by Trump, has debunked negative stereotypes about Nigeria and Africa.