After the Webinar: Boomers, Slackers and Snowflakes. Q&A with Diana Knapp

Webinar presenter Diana Knapp answered a number of your questions after her webinar, Boomers, Slackers, and Snowflakes: Building a Multi-Generational Team. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question: You shared that great story about your operations manager, about how he has skills, but had no background in corrections. How can we break the patterns so many of our agencies have and start thinking beyond those individuals inside our agencies and start thinking about professions and other professionals outside the agency?

Diana Knapp:  Well, I think that the very first thing you have to look at is your job description and make sure the job description itself doesn’t limit people. I’ve seen job descriptions where it’s isolated exclusively to people in your industry and sometimes even crafted so that if a person hasn’t served at X level within your shop, they have no chance of the position. So, you’re limiting people, not just to your industry, but you’re limiting them to your particular facility or your particular operation.  I would start there, look at your job description. Make sure that you’re queueing on the skills that you need and not necessarily the site-specific qualifications to make sure that you’re open to the broadest possible group outside your facility who still has the skill sets that you need. Ensure there’s still a path for your home-grown talent, I like to call it, but there will be those chances for people to bring their outside skills, and outside resumes to your operation to strengthen them.


Audience Question: How do you evolve a culture that allows for mistakes? 

Diana Knapp: Somebody’s got to go first, right? I can tell you that you can learn from litigation in our department. We recently paid out a several hundred-thousand-dollar settlement, simply because somebody five years ago failed to document the counseling of a supervisor for inappropriate conduct. We were able to talk to the jurors after the fact, and they told us that if we had simply issued a letter of information to the supervisor involved, the jury would have found in the county’s favor. This was a big deal. So, I am saying that to say, the first thing you must do is, make sure that you understand what you’re doing discipline for. You’re doing discipline to correct and change behavior, but don’t lose sight of the fact that, as a manager, you’re also doing discipline to protect your agency. Understand that you lead by example. If you must issue discipline to somebody, as soon as you’re done with that process, it’s in the file, you’ve covered that part of it, and you move on. It doesn’t have to come up again unless the behavior comes up again. You don’t have to talk about that again. Move on and get a win for that person and for your department as soon as you possibly can. I know that sometimes staff thinks that if they had gotten a letter of information, that they’ve been counseled about something and you run into them three months later, they’re thinking, “Oh, my gosh, she’s looking at me right now, she’s thinking about that thing, the thing that happened,” and I’m not, I’m not thinking about it because I’ve moved on. The best way to do that is to find ways to get those people involved in things that are going to be successful. So, you have ways to praise them. They say praise in public and correct in private. You’ve got to find those ways to celebrate what they’re doing right today and talk about their future. Make it a point to talk about their future with them so that they understand, you’re still seeing them rising through the ranks of your operation, but you, the leader, have to demonstrate that.


Audience Question: Given the staffing shortages so many agencies are facing, what are your recommendations for recruiting people into our profession and kind of like what you did with your ops manager? 

Diana Knapp:  Well, I would tell you, one of the things that you guys have control over is trolls, right? Social media can be your friend, or it can be a killer. We have trolls in our agency, I just came back from a conference in Indiana, and that was a big topic there, and they talked about their colleagues who are posting on social media, negative things about their organization. That is a killer to recruitment. If the people working there now aren’t willing to say good things about it, what does that kind of do? And what are we all complaining about, right? The staff is complaining about short staffing, which means too much mandatory overtime. They’re working the floors and the tiers shorthanded there. It’s making for a very tough shift. It’s mentally taxing, physically taxing. But some of those same folks are the ones with the pseudonym identity, making sometimes false or negative comments about your agency. And I would encourage you,  if you know that’s happening with your colleagues, to call that out. That’s the worst thing that an agency can be doing when they need people is have their own people talk bad about the agency. So, call that out. Use social media a lot to celebrate and put a face on the employees that you’ve got that are working hard for you. Be out there, be a presence in the community, showing your staff doing good things, helping people. We recently lost a staff member who speaks seven languages, because we did a social media post about him helping one of our citizens in the lobby who only spoke Russian.  There’s a drawback to that too, but it was still the right thing to do, to celebrate our staff member, helping a member of the community in a way that was respecting her dignity was compassionate, and supportive, and we’re really proud of him.


Audience Question: How do you get people to let go of those stereotypes that boomers, don’t understand tech or millennials have entitlement attitudes? How do you get them to just let those attitudes or those stereotypes go? 

Diana Knapp: Well, I think that human nature is such that we fear those things we know the least about, and to which we have the least amount of exposure. And so, I think that the very best path to that is putting multiple generations of people together on work tasks to overcome that. If you want to learn about how young people think spend a lot of time with young people and you will come to realize that they are as diverse as the stars of the sky, right?  I think it’s really, it’s about exposure. It’s about forcing exposure. Don’t let people self-select into like-minded age groups or like-minded gender groups. Put people in situations to achieve wins together in groups that have a broad spectrum of ages and backgrounds and gender. Help them get to know one another. I think that the best thing that you can do to overcome those stereotypes is just to get people at the table working together and starting to understand one another from their very unique and individual perspectives.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Boomers, Slackers, and Snowflakes: Building a Multi-Generational Team.



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