With many people born in the 1940s still working full-time, the workplace contains more generations than ever before.
For employers, a multi-generational workforce presents a unique challenge in the form of different needs and expectations. Baby Boomers likely have one eye on retirement and are more prone to age-related health issues. Millennials, on the other hand, are likely to have long-term career plans and may be more concerned with vacation time than a 401k plan.
Rather than focusing on challenges and negatives, management must have a positive approach to their multi-generational staff. Experienced employees can coach younger generations toward their career goals, and younger generations can infuse fresh ideas for boosting efficiency and solving problems. By making use of generational differences, a business can see productivity gains in every department, from customer service to human resources.
The following tips are ways for management to leverage the benefits of a multi-generational workforce.
1. Confront differences head-on
There are multiple stereotypes and expectations surrounding every generation, and the best approach to address these biases is to tackle them publicly and honestly. Discuss generational differences (or lack of differences) during employee training sessions and as a part of diversity training sessions. Make sure these conversations are multi-lateral, with management acting on the feedback heard during these discussions.
That being said, no company can accommodate for every single individual desire or expectation. Management should figure out what are key, non-negotiable requirements for daily operation and what can be flexible or adjusted.
2. Focus on individuals
Management should be focused on individuals, not employees grouped together based on their age. By focusing on the individual, age gaps will begin to seem less important, helping to remove stigmas. By better understanding the various talents, goals, and expectations of each individual, supervisors are equipped to lead based on the unique makeup of their team, not age-based assumptions.
3. Emphasize common ground
When people focus on the common ground that they share, their differences suddenly become less important. Some organizations hold team-building exercises so that their employees can find common ground. This, in turn, can lead to a foundation of trust, which then leads to more effective collaboration.
4. Encourage collaboration
Each staff member has value to add to a company, even the newest entry-level hire. When employees are allowed to make meaningful contributions in a collaborative way, their value, regardless of age, becomes apparent.
Develop opportunities for staff members to share their knowledge and work together. Host frequent meetings that ask workers to offer ideas and insight regarding processes that affect everyone.
Also, a reciprocal mentoring program can help foster collaboration on a one-on-one basis. Such a program could match more experienced staff with their younger co-workers. A worker nearing retirement may be able to help younger workers avoid pitfalls and make wise career decisions. A younger employee could explain the usefulness of the latest tech tools or emerging industry trend.
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