As individuals from Generation Z begin to enter the workforce and many professionals over 60 are delaying their retirement, we now have five different generations actively contributing to the workforce at the same time. This presents a novel challenge for businesses looking to attract, retain, motivate, and develop employees with more differences in background and life experiences than ever before.
When managing a diverse team, particularly across such a broad range of generations, what challenges and opportunities might businesses be faced with?
Finding solutions that work cross-generationally
It is important to find solutions that work for all of your employees. Here are some thoughts to consider:
Make it easy to collaborate and build relationships
When given the opportunity to get to know our peers, we will naturally begin to understand and appreciate them more. Creating opportunities for employees of all generations to interact both in and outside of work can help to broaden their thinking and minimise misunderstandings further down the line.
Recognise differences without dwelling on them
There is a common fear when managing a multi-generational workforce that there will be misunderstanding, conflict, and a host of stereotypes at play. It helps to recognise the potential for problems and proactively address them. You should focus on what each generation can learn from one another and this should lead to more productive and positive interactions, as opposed to fixating on the differences.
Know your demographics
Conduct detailed employee surveys and take the time to understand what the data is telling you. This can help you to tailor your approach and processes according to what your employees want from their workplace.
Create opportunities for reverse mentoring
This can be one of the best ways to allow and encourage employees at all levels to learn from each other in a constructive environment. Older generations can learn vital skills related to the latest technological advancements, while younger employees can gain valuable organisational knowledge as well as vital insights about the world of work.
Consider different life stages
With five different generations working together, we will have individuals experiencing varying stages of life. While not every generation will be uniform in what it needs, being able to understand and cater for different life paths and activities outside of work is crucial to engaging and retaining a multi-generational workforce.
The do’s and don’ts of managing a five-generation workforce
DO Embrace collaboration and reverse mentoring
Humans have a natural tendency to stick to familiar situations and peer groups, so it is well worth creating environments that favour multi-generational working. Reverse mentoring schemes have been a successful way to implement this in many organisations. However, adopting multi-generational working groups where possible can also help both ends of the age spectrum to understand and learn from each other.
DO get to know your workforce
What are the demographics of your organisation? What are their communication preferences? What stages of life are your employees at and how can you support this whilst supporting the goals of your organisation? These are all key questions that need to be considered when looking to engage employees of all generations.
DO NOT fall victim to stereotypes
We’ve all come across different stereotypes in our lives. Whilst different generations may have different learning needs in many cases, focusing too much attention on these differences will only exacerbate any divisions that already exist between generations in your workforce.
Creating harmony in the workplace
Even when we take age or generations out of the equation, the modern working environment is far more open and diverse than ever before. As a manager, it is imperative to get to know your employees’ working and learning styles, motivations, and life goals. This way, you can plan their work and personal development programmes effectively. You will then be able to identify where team members can compliment and learn from each other regardless of their background or generational differences.
When professionals better understand those around them, they can find ways to learn and adapt so that they can harness the strengths of their peers. As with any group of employees, regardless of age, there can be challenges or conflicts if there is a lack of communication and understanding.
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Business Manager, Michael Page Human Resources