3 Ways to Embrace a Multigenerational Workplace
The more generations, the merrier: Mine strengths and foster respect for better teamwork.
Thanks to rising life expectancy and longevity in the workplace, companies today include greater age diversity than at any time in history. Factor in the boomers (born from 1946 through 1964), Gen Xers (1965-1979) and millennials (1980-1995), add a small cadre born before 1946 along with a growing Gen Z workforce (born after 1995), and you may be managing up to five generations under one roof.
Age diversity offers a valuable spectrum of experiences that can help you deliver top service to an equally varied client base. Yet 75% of managers say overseeing multiple generations also presents unique challenges. Use these tips to help promote equanimity and cultivate success for every generation your staff represents.
- Form teams. Don’t let your employees silo by age. When possible, find ways to team the 59-year-old manager with that 26-year-old new recruit and let them learn from each other. Older workers can pass along decades of real-world experience, while millennials may bring fresh perspectives on areas ranging from technology to building a sustainable workplace.
The good news? The fabled generation gap that once characterized boomers’ interactions with their elders has mellowed now that boomers are becoming the senior generation. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, while people of all ages note significant differences among generations on values and tastes, only 26% said these amount to serious conflicts. At the very least, this suggests an opening to get employees working toward harmonious goals.
- Find common ground. Generational friction may flare up around seemingly tangential matters such as dress code, cellphone use or email etiquette. While much depends on the nature of your business and client expectations, you have every right to demand a certain level of dress and conduct. But look for areas of compromise — after all, expectations on dress have been evolving for years, and a little flexibility can go a long way to ease the disgruntled. Just make sure the same rules apply to everyone, regardless of age.
- Avoid stereotypes. Even as you seek to understand and accommodate multiple generations, remember that each employee is an individual. Avoid policies or office activities that stereotype people’s values or behaviors based on age. In the end, perhaps the best way to get the most from any employee is to play to their individual strengths.
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