Business and technology writer Heather Redding outlines the ways organisations can ensure harmonious working between professionals from different generations.
New generations are entering the labour market all the time. As the modern workforce evolves, increased life expectancy means workers stay longer as their younger peers join the workforce.
Modern teams range from the highly focused and disciplined baby boomer to the innovative and digitally savvy Generation Z. Managing a generationally diverse team is an incredible way to gain a range of insights for your business. Professionals in each demographic have their unique work styles and benefits to offer in any industry.
However, as any manager will know, maintaining cohesion in a multigenerational environment can be quite a challenge. Here are just some of the steps business leaders can take to ensure they’re leveraging the full benefits of a diverse, multigenerational team.
1. Get to know your employees
While it’s true that different generations tend to have specific working styles, this doesn’t mean team leaders should make generalised assumptions about the people they work with.
Keep the studies about each generation and how they tend to operate best in the current workspace in your mind, but also make time to get to know each employee to get familiar with their preferences.
Business leaders will generate better engagement and productivity when they speak to their employees to understand their goals, how they prefer to work, and even the tasks they feel most comfortable with.
You may assume that a baby boomer would struggle with digital tools but learn in a one-on-one meeting that this individual has years of experience working with complex software and tools.
Making a conscious effort to learn about your employees will help you to assign tasks to the right people and create the most diverse teams in the future.
2. Mix and match when creating teams
Diversity in personalities is proven to make a difference in team productivity and performance. Employees work best when people with different perspectives come together and share unique insights and ideas.
When building teams for projects in your workplace, think about how you can effectively include employees from different generations to get the best results.
Remember, each team member will have strengths and weaknesses to consider, so look for partnerships that work well together.
For instance, you might have a team with a millennial who’s tech-savvy and extremely hard working but struggles to communicate with people in person.
You could match that individual with a baby boomer who feels more comfortable in such a setting as their communication skills exceed their IT skills and reap the benefits of their collaboration.
3. Encourage team bonding between generations
Siloing can happen naturally in a lot of business environments. When in a workplace, we tend to gravitate towards people with similar experiences and thought patterns.
Unfortunately, this can create professional “cliques” in the office, making it difficult to develop a strong company culture.
While everyone should be able to make friendships with the people they choose, try to encourage multigenerational bonding as often as possible.
Ensure that people have time to talk and share ideas by building teams with people from every generation. Use team-building exercises and informal interactions like pizza lunches to bring everyone together.
Aside from encouraging friendships between all members of staff, it’s also important to ensure your employees know you won’t stand for any generational bullying or deliberate exclusion. Everyone in your team should feel like a valued member of the group.
4. Know how to motivate each generation
As mentioned above, stereotypes about different generations in the workforce aren’t always an exact science. Everyone is different, and it’s important to get to know your employees before you make assumptions about them.
However, studies do show that certain generations are more likely to show certain behaviours than others.
The younger generations, Millennials and Gen Z, for instance, are more likely to focus on company values and purpose than their salary.
This could mean that a cash bonus might not appeal to your younger employees as much as an opportunity to learn and grow. However, Baby Boomers and Gen X may be more readily motivated by financial rewards.
Pay attention to what each generation in your business values most and use this information when figuring out how to keep people motivated and engaged.
Many employees will find that having unique progress, development, and goal-setting strategies for each employee will generate the best results.
5. Encourage cross-generational learning
Having people in your team with different perspectives and insights to offer is an excellent way to maintain a creative and high-performing business.
However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t encourage your employees to help other team members see things from their perspective. Cross-generational learning opportunities can be an excellent way to help people develop new skills.
You could set up a mentorship programme, where people from different generations can mentor team members on technology use, social media etiquette, and even in-person networking.
You might ask certain staff members to step up and offer their insights into certain skills as part of a voluntary training session that any employee can attend.
As well as encouraging cross-generational learning opportunities among your team members, make sure you’re providing different development opportunities that appeal to all ages, too.
For instance, if you’re offering courses to help team members gain new skills, make sure there are different ways to take the course, like applying online or speaking to a teacher in person. This will help everyone to get involved.
6. Optimise and adapt as you go
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for building and maintaining the perfect cross-generational workforce.
However, if you’re willing to listen to your team members, collect feedback, and adapt as you go, you’re already on the right path. Pay attention to your employees from every generation, and experiment with ways to keep everyone engaged, motivated, and productive.
Though the variation between your employees might be a little challenging to handle at first, it should lead to incredible results for your company in the long run.
In this article, you learned that:
- Not all employees will have generation-specific skills or strengths, so don’t generalise.
- Mix up teams on projects from various generations whose skills bridge the gaps that are missing.
- Different generations may have different motivations and reward preferences.
Heather Redding is a writer based in Aurora, Illinois. Reach out to her on Twitter.