Excelling with Multigenerational Workforces: A Q&A with Gregg Tate, Global SVP HR of Adidas

Gregg Tate, Global SVP HR of Adidas

While some similarities can be seen, the generations that makeup the modern workforce are drastically different. Are there any motivators that seem to engage employees across all of the generational lines?

GT: To be honest, I think too much is being made of the differences in generations. There have always been generational differences- and there always will be. It is just a natural occurrence as generations come into different stages of societal and technological advancement. We are all shaped by our various frames of reference, based upon our lives and environments. This always has been and always will be the case. It is true, however, that the younger generations of today, GenY and the upcoming GenZ, have come through a period of greater and more rapid advancement than preceding generations. Maybe this has helped and will help shape their perspectives and expectations differently than GenX and the Baby-Boomers before them. For me though, what is interesting is that by the year 2020, we will have four (4) generations in the work-place simultaneously. As we think about the future of work, this will be an interesting encounter.

Similarly, which generation would you say is the toughest to engage and what tactics would you suggest that HR employ to increase engagement?

GT: Personally, I think GenX is the toughest to engage. In fact, I recently heard them referred to as "the Forgotten Generation." This generation is now the middle management and rising senior management level. But, they find themselves sandwiched in between two generations of which there has been much hype, the Boomers ahead of them and the Millennials coming after them. They seem to have to grapple for their place on the wall. Engaging them is almost a process of constant reassurance, making certain they know where they are and where they are going and what is there to support them along the way. They emerged with the advent of the technological boom and have had a great part in building and shaping it. But, then come the Millennials who have known nothing else but, and they shape and re-shape it, and speed it up, and kind of demand, more, more and more.

Can you provide an example in which Adidas has fostered collaboration among a multi-generational workforce?
GT: Adidas is an overall youthful company, with an average age of just over 34 years, worldwide. Our business spans sports, fashion and lifestyle, with a pretty young targeted consumer. To stay in touch with that consumer - and to be engaged with them, it is imperative that we have people in our organization that are in that targeted demographic and are connected to what it wants. And, this has to be on a global basis, as we operate in over 200 countries worldwide. So, particularly in fashion and lifestyle, the trends move quickly and vary around the world. As such, we try to ensure we work across all these lines, in order to best stay connected with that consumer. We intentionally have multi-generational and multi-cultural teams that work on our product design, development and Go-to-Market, as well as the marketing strategies behind it. In so doing, it accomplishes two points, one of being closer to the consumer and the other of fostering a collaboration across generations, and cultures.
From an HR perspective, what do you think sets Adidas apart from all other companies?
GT: One, I think our industry itself provides a good opportunity to be different. As I said before, we’re in the fast-moving world of sports, fashion and lifestyle. We, and I mean our people, work with teams, athletes, style/fashion icons and celebrities alike. We’re a young and dynamic workforce. And, we have a global approach to our business, realizing and recognizing the importance of being relative in multiple markets around the world, with an appreciation for their differences and similarities. As such, we have to build our HR programs and strategies to help the business support this approach. To do so, we are always looking ahead, and making sure we evolve with the changes. Does
this separate us from other companies? I’m not sure I could say it is a separator from ALL companies, as I think we must all have an eye toward the future and have an agility to adapt. But, I think our business necessitates that we maybe do it a bit faster than in other industries.
What are your top priorities for 2016?

GT: In 2016, we begin to action steps we have just recently laid-out in our new 5-year business plan, in which PEOPLE is one of the four main pillars. This involves a new HR Operating Model for us and implementation of a new People Strategy that will be a key aspect in helping the company achieve the desired results over the next 5 years. And, as with everyone else, I’m sure, Talent is a key facet for us in doing this. The old adage of Attract, Motivate, Develop and Retain the best talent has never been more true. The War for Talent is over, and Talent has won. Talent determines where and with whom they will provide their services. So, it is up to us to make sure we stand-out, we catch, and keep, their attention, and that we inspire them to grow, lead and help us be the best that we, and they, can be.