We are in a unique time where the workplace has become the meeting ground, and often the battleground, for multiple generations of employees. From Baby Boomers and Generation X to Xennials and Millenials, they are all present in the office, working side by side. This environment presents a challenge for managers to determine how to foster a collaborative workplace with the right culture to meet the needs of all of the members of the work group.
The question then is how does a manager create a harmonious and productive environment that meets the generational work expectations of employees while also supporting the beliefs, skillsets and energy characteristics that make each generation a unique asset to the organization? The following tips may help pave the way for managers:
- Don’t believe the hype: There are stereotypes about each generation. Managers need to look beyond the preconceived notions of each generation to allow employees a chance to prove themselves. For example, it is assumed that baby boomers are less technologically savvy and millennials don’t have a strong work ethic. Treating employees based on the stereotypes may cause a manager to miss out on the unique experience or viewpoint an employee may bring to a project. Instead, managers should treat, and rate employees based on their merit and individually proven track record.
- Create collaborative relationships: Having an environment of open communication where every employee feels valued will encourage engagement and minimize miscommunications. Since each employee processes information differently, managers should ensure that instructions for projects are clear and specific. Expectations and deadlines should also be defined so everyone understands their role and assigned duties.
- Study your employees: Managers should study the demographics of their current workforce and the projected demographics of their future workforce to determine what they want out of their jobs, their preferred communication styles and goals for the future. This information can be obtained through annual employee surveys and team conversations. Understanding employees’ values and visions can help managers determine how to best assist them in their career path while also ensuring the organization’s goals are met.
- Create opportunities for cross-generational training: Pairing younger employees with seasoned coworkers through reverse or reciprocal mentoring programs can prove beneficial for both. Each team member possesses unique skill sets and viewpoints that can aid the other in developing new skills, understanding the institutional habits of the organization and providing career advice.
- Sharing is caring: As you work through the dynamics of your workgroup and create the desired work environment, share your best practices with other managers who may be struggling in the same area. Did you have some missteps that provided great lessons? Are you noticing a trend among any particular generation that the organization should know about? Sharing this information with other managers can help create policies that may build strong work groups across the organization, which can ultimately lead to growth and success.
The bottom line is the modern workforce will continue to employ four or five generations within the same space, which can prove challenging. Managing generational differences in the workplace is all about creating an environment where people understand and appreciate various viewpoints and feel valued and supported. Managers who embrace the generational changes and develop strategies to capitalize on the strengths of each generation will find success for their group and for the organization.