KeyBank Works to Bring Generations Together

How KeyBank is finding common ground between the “we want it now” generation and the “shut-up and deal with it” older generations.

By Tamika Cody

How do you bridge the communications gap between Millennials, Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers?

Kim Manigault, CFO of KeyBank’s technology and operations division, recently created a feedback program to help the three generations come together. The program, Straight Talk, encourages constructive observation instead of complaints.

The goal is to get the three groups to see that they all are actually asking for the same things.

 Kim Manigault
  Kim Manigault

The Millennials she works with are not afraid to tell their employers what they think or what they would like to have. “And they don’t have a problem empowering themselves to make the change,” she said. However, before Millennials reveal how vocal they can be, she said they want to be assured that it is okay to speak up in a corporate environment.

“Our Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers believe that Millennials just want too much,” Manigault said. “What I’ve realized is they all want the same thing; the only difference is that [Millennials] are not afraid to ask for it. Gen X and Gen Y come from the shut up and deal with it phase, and Millennials come from [the] if you don’t like it change it phase.”

Most Gen X-ers and Boomers are stuck in believing that there isn’t a way to change things.

“It’s like taxes and politics, you kind of have to just deal with it,” Manigault said. “Millennials don’t have to deal with it. They can get up and go. They say ‘I don’t have to stay for 20 plus years [in one job]. I can go somewhere else in six months.’”

How Straight Talk Works

In April, Manigault was tapped to be a diversity and inclusion champion for the finance team at Cleveland-based KeyBank, a subsidiary of KeyCorp (No. 49 on the DiversityInc Top 50). Soon after taking on the role, Manigault launched the program Straight Talk.

“It’s not a place to come and complain,” she stressed. “It’s a place to take ownership of making a change.”

To set the program in motion, Manigault and her team gathered groups of minorities, including people of diverse ethnicities and women, and asked the groups two specific questions.

  • What are your observations of what it’s like to be you in our environment?
  • What are you going to do to change it?

People usually want to share what’s wrong and then leave the problem for someone else to fix. But these questions require follow-up for the problems.

“You don’t get to the second question until you lay out the first question,” Manigault explained. And when asked the second question, employees tended to give generic responses.

“Our program is an outcome base, with the outcome being owned by the participants,” she said. “Everyone has these fireside chats, but ours is different. Ours isn’t about just having a conversation and walking away and feeling good that you shared how you feel and now somebody heard you.”

Instead, the program not only allows KeyBank employees to share how they feel but also lets them be responsible for making a change within the culture and the environment.

“If you’re looking for a place to whine, this is not that place,” Manigault reemphasized. “He who has the complaint is required to offer a constructive recommendation. We empower ourselves to own the evolution of our environment that we are a part of. And that’s what our Straight Talk discussions are about.”

So far, Straight Talk, which also provides mentoring and coaching sessions, has been quite successful at KeyBank.

The plan is to host quarterly sessions. Between each quarter, participants will be tasked with figuring out a plan to make the changes they would like to see take shape in the workplace.

“You’ve got to do the work, not just bring the thought,” she added.

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