In a world where employees frequently work well beyond the age of 60, and school leavers are now entering the workforce, companies are now facing a brand-new challenge – how to manage a multi-generational workforce. For the first time, in one workplace we have Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, and Millennials. It’s easy to see how managers might struggle to align so many workers with disparate characteristics.
However, if you want the best selection of skill in your workforce, you’ll need to learn how to tackle the challenges, and encourage the people in your team to work together efficiently. It won’t’ be easy, as HR studies prove that in organisations with more than 500 employees, 58% of managers see conflicts between generations. However, if you can nail-down the multi-generational team, then you can access a talent pool that thinks outside of the box, and knows how to balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Challenge 1: Managing Communication
Communication is key for any workforce. When using a specialist recruitment agency to find your ideal candidate for a role, the chances are that you consider communication style and interpersonal skills alongside education and experience. However, the difference between communication styles for different generations has become almost cliched. While Generation Y sends instant messages, Gen Xers prefer calls and emails.
Throw in the use of colloquialisms, informal language, and abbreviations, and you’ve got everything you need for a serious breakdown in communications.
The Answer: Encourage Collaboration
When communication suffers, it can be tempting to segment your workforce. However, if you can influence the different generations in your team to learn from each other, and find a mutual language, then you will see significant benefits. Just because generations communicate differently doesn’t mean they’re incompatible.
By shifting the collective mindset and pushing different generations to see each other as partners, rather than members of a segmented workforce, everyone can benefit from new ideas, and new forms of communication.
Challenge 2: Motivating the Workforce
A motivated workforce is an engaged workforce. However, there’s more to keeping your employees happy than simply offering the right salary. Motivating employees often means creating a company culture that supports everyone’s ideals and goals. It may include the use of perks, and flexible working strategies that allow different generations to pursue different aims in their careers and to work in a variety of ways to achieve them.
The Answer: Treat Everyone as an Individual
Rather than trying to motivate different people with the same selection of benefits, it could be easier to personalise your approach to motivation. For instance, when the time comes to reward an employee, ask them what they would appreciate most – from extra time off work, to a remote working schedule.
In addition, you can use this customised motivational strategy as a way of differentiating your business when it comes to asking your specialist recruitment team to find the employees that are right for you. If candidates know that they can choose their own perks, they’re far more likely to be drawn to your company culture.
Challenge 3: Negative Stereotypes
Whatever their differences might be, it’s incredibly important to make sure that companies don’t play up to the stereotypes of each generation. Older workers often think of millennials as tech-obsessed and entitled, while younger workers think of Baby boomers as old-fashioned, and stubborn.
The truth is that although different generations can have different work styles and preferences, they’re not so two-dimensional that they can be labelled under specific stereotypes. As a leader, it’s up to you to move your team beyond the labels.
The Answer: Focus on Valuing People for Individual Strengths
Don’t assume that certain people in your team need special help and treatment. Don’t focus on the weaknesses that members of your workforce might have. Instead, get to know each person individually, and focus on drawing value to their strengths. Remember, mixed-age teams can deliver a wealth of opportunity to the business environment. Fresh thinking combined with experience can lead to highly effective results.
Watch out for any dysfunction in the workplace caused by generational judgements, and step in when necessary.
Challenge 4: Balancing Strengths and Weaknesses
Finally, each generation delivers their own unique characteristics to the workforce. Those differences should be embraced to help companies get the most out of their teams. Too often, managers see the gaps between their team members as negatives. However, building a team that’s brimming with diverse insights, perspectives, and strengths can only be helpful to your company.
The Answer: Cross Generational Mentoring
Make the most of the individual strengths and weaknesses your team members have by building a reciprocal mentoring program. Here, younger employees can teach older ones how to use social media and other technology, while older generations can provide guidance into interpersonal skills, communication, while sharing their knowledge about how the business operates strategically and that important topic of how to navigate company politics should they arise.
Allow team members to learn from each other, and turn to other members of the organisation when they need help balancing their strengths and weaknesses.