The Generation Game: Balancing the needs of employees from different generations
Anthony Bennett gives us a few ways to make the multi-generational workplace work.
As the next generation of employees begin to take over the workplace, a culture clash is brewing. Managers will need to consider a number of factors to help meet the needs of all members of staff. So how can managers ensure that they’re fostering an environment that brings the team together, eases generational tensions and encourages a collaborative working environment?
Differences between generations can often be quite noticeable and when not managed can often lead to tension, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Any good team needs to be made up of a number of different personalities, each with their own specialism, so rather than focusing on the differences, celebrate and encourage them.
For example, the baby-boomer who’s been with the company for 20 plus years may not be the best at social media marketing, but may be able to better handle tasks which require more in-depth knowledge that only comes after years of experience.
Similarly, a millennial may not be able to lean on a wealth of expertise developed over a long career, but can usually use their highly trained researching skills to find new and alternative ways of working.
Differences between generations can often be quite noticeable and when not managed can often lead to tension, but this doesn’t have to be the case.
Forcing employees to fit a general template rather than allowing them some creative freedom is a surefire way to kill the individuality that makes companies strong. You should aim to help your team move beyond the labels, after all there’s a lot of variation and it’s important that you get to know each person individually.
Encourage knowledge sharing
One of the most effective methods for bridging the generational gap, is implementing a knowledge share initiative which encourages people from all generations to share their skills. This technique works so well because it addresses two possible issues causes by generational differences.
First, it allows employees to feel heard and that their opinion is valuable. Second, it encourages new ideas to be formed in a collaborative and friction-free environment.
Showing employees that their opinion matters from the onset is vitally important and will make for a much more joined-up team. Often you’ll find that a company places more importance on either the innovative youth, or the experienced senior management which can lead the other to feel rather disgruntled.
Joining up members from all generations will make for a much more unified workplace and means employees are able to tap into the crucial knowledge of their counterparts.
One of the biggest issues facing businesses tasked with managing employees from different generations is the use of incentives and rewards. Different people are motivated by different things and while generational categories are not the be all and end all of measurements, they can be very telling.
When it comes to inspiring and incentivising employees who are much older or younger than you, it helps to consider where your employees are in their lives and what their needs might be.
Younger team members, for example, typically don’t have many external obligations and as such are more motivated by new experiences and opportunities to learn, develop and even travel. Employees in their 30s and 40s, on the other hand, may have children and mortgages meaning they often favour flexibility over financial incentives.
Workers nearing the end of their careers are understandably less interested in training, but place prominence on having interesting work and a healthy work-life balance. Understanding the characteristics that define these life paths will help you figure out the best way assign projects while also helping you to identify the best ways to manage and motivate your team.
Create a shared belief
Every strong company should have a robust identity of who they want to be and what they stand for. This is even more important in relation to generational differences. While it’s obvious that managers should champion individual differences, you should also celebrate what team members have in common, the company they work for.
Uniting under a joint flag helps the individuals come together and put generational differences aside to create something bigger than the sum of its constituent parts.
About the author
Anthony Bennett is director of Bennett Hay.
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