We live in a world of different generations. For the first time in history, one company’s personnel may span four generations: the millennials, baby boomers, Generation X, and the Silent Generation. Such kind of diversity makes for a stronger workforce. However, with such an eclectic demographic mix – which means four different sets of values, career goals, and approaches – there are sure to be potential conflicts and misconceptions brought about by the generation gap.
Additionally, more than one-third of the workforce is made up of millennials while one-quarter is baby boomers. The millennials, in particular, are flooding through the generational ramparts, demanding changes and support, and there’s no end in sight: by 2025, 46 percent of the workforce will be comprised of millennials.
The Generation gap problem
When conflicts arise among the generations at work, most of the blame falls on the millennials. They are depicted as an entitled generation that’s plaguing the workplace. The generation is perpetually inspected, picked apart, and decisively vilified as a looming threat with which everyone will have to cope.
Plenty of advice for resolving these problems similarly targets Millennials, suggesting companies adjust management styles and change company policy to cater to this generation. However, millennials are characterized as brazen, fearless, and unwilling to take “no” for an answer. Their assuredness and technological expertise have radically changed office dynamics.
Below are four best practices to bridge the gap and get the most out of your teams’ diversity:
1.Outlaw Generation Stereotyping
Stereotypes have developed about all the generations. For instance, Baby Boomers are thought to be technologically inept and intransigent. Millennials, on the other hand, are sick of hearing about their “everyone gets a trophy” upbringing and stereotypes about not working hard enough or being difficult to manage. The GenXers often feel thwarted by older folks above them clogging up promotion paths. Such frustrations can surface in numerous ways.
The tendency to stereotype employees is unfair, such as the idea that younger people don’t respect the older generations or that older people are unwilling to learn new stuff.
While there are common attributes, tendencies, and skillsets within a generation, this should not take away from individual differences that exist. It’s important to understand these differences, rather than just making blanket assessments of capabilities and the latter just widens the generation gap.
2. Avoid “one-size-fits-all” Management
It is important to create a culture where each employees’ personality, skills, and needs are taken into account. This will help you understand your staff and what makes them tick.
Provided you aren’t approaching everyone in the same manner, you’ll be on your way to a well-devised management plan to bridge the gap. This is why it’s so important to know what sets the generations apart.
Remember that managing the generation gap is all about empowering employees and showing them respect.
3. Create an open communication culture with transparency
It is important to find out how staff members like to communicate. You might be surprised to find research indicating all generations prefer communicating face-to-face for important issues, then phone, email, and messaging platforms are last.
There is no substitute for this type of environment where everyone feels as though they have a part to play in the direction of the company. For that, everyone should be allowed to present creative thoughts, complaints, ideas, and concerns.
4. Establish a two-way mentorship program
The KIA aka “Know It All” can blow up the generation gap quickly, regardless of whether the KIA is young or old. No organization benefits from smug sermons laced with techno-jargon about how things should be done today or self-righteous lectures about how things were done back in the day.
A successful, well-rounded workplace is one where all generations listen to one another and learn from one another. Millennials bring insights on how technology can transform many aspects of running a company while Baby boomers have valuable real-world experience about how the business world works.
A great way to manage a generation gap in the workplace is to develop a mentorship program within your organization. This creates a fair and balanced platform so each party can benefit, and it can also help build stronger interpersonal relationships between colleagues. They are also exposed to fresh perspectives and creative ideas.
The two-way mentorship approach is especially useful when younger workers are in leadership roles since it encourages respect to flow in both directions. In other words, bring the generations together in forums of open-mindedness and collaboration.
5. Workplace Collaboration Is ‘The Name of the Game’
Contrasting views of the different generations don’t have to result in conflict and disagreement. The Millennials are here to stay. They are smart, connected, and already making their mark on the professional world. At the same time, Generation X employees are becoming leaders, and Baby Boomers are delaying retirement.
Each generation’s circumstances are unique, and each requires well-tailored strategies that will give them the best workplace environment possible.
By embracing different generational work styles and talents, businesses can achieve a more innovative workplace by bridging multigenerational talent and perspective.
However, the above approaches only work if everyone is on board – so make sure that leadership, from the C-Suite to managers, is ready to proactively advocate for them. Policy and practice changes on a large scale can be tricky to orchestrate, but they can also be powerful for company culture and bridging the generational gap.