How To Harness Productivity Among Different Generations
It may seem like different generations don't get along very well, but it is simple to make it happen at work!
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Today’s workplace is more dynamic than ever before. More and more organizations are increasingly realizing the benefits of diversity in terms of age, sex, race, and nationality. This does not come without its fair share of challenges. Generational gap is one of the biggest headaches in the workplace.
By by 2022, it’s touted that the bloomers in managerial positions will be managing a workforce their kids or grandkids age. For this reason, companies need to embrace the new challenge and learn ways to navigate this to ensure that their divergent workforce can work productively together. The following are some valuable tips.
1. Lengthen the Leash
In most instances, baby boomers outrank millennials in the workplace. This means that millennials seemingly bothersome requests land on their desks. It’s important to understand that for millennials, their personal life and work life bleed into each other. It’s not rare to get an email reply at 10 pm on a Saturday night because they are always online. Conversely, it’s common to find them doing some online shopping at their desks at 11 am on a Monday morning. Trying to get them on a strict rigid routine will only increase your gray hairs.
For supervisors, the best thing is to outline what the deliverables and their deadlines are, then allow flexibility as long as the output is met. Unlike baby boomers, who prioritize a salary and a stable nine to five job, millennials crave freedom and room for creativity. For this reason, they might have requests for days off or to work remotely and so on. Again emphasize on the output and allow some requests, within reason, and as long as they do not interfere with the larger role at hand.
2. Encourage Collaborative Working
Both ends of the spectrum bring some value to an organization. Collaborative working can allow the two to mix and work on projects as opposed to having them work separately. One way to do this is to have a workspace designed for collaborative working and team effort. This means having workstations with low partitions as well as stationing baby boomers next to millennials to encourage collaboration. In the natural way of things, if everyone has their way, employees are likely to cluster in their two separate groups which widen the divide.
3. Encourage Common Values
People come to the workplace with different values. As such, it is important to emphasize your organizational values. These can include your organization’s work culture. Does it promote diversity and cohesion? Is it big on CSR? Mutual respect and inclusivity? Whatever it is, make this well understood by emphasizing it and have them prioritize it over their individual issues. A common focus allows employees to see themselves as a team working towards a common goal and takes the focus off the generational differences.
4. Be Conscious of The Biases
Picture this scenario: HR announces in the weekly meeting that the company is seeking to hire a few “millennials to bring in fresh innovative ideas”. A few things come to mind:
• The current employees are not millennials.
• The current employees do not bring in fresh ideas and innovative ideas.
• The new person is coming in to show you how to do your job.
When the fresh-minded millennials arrive, how accepting are the current employees likely to be? How helpful will they be in embracing the millennials and getting them inducted and settled in? In this case, HR has set up a negative working relationship, way before it even starts. The point here is not to ignore the differences, the point is to be sensitive to them and not overemphasize them in a manner that scrambles cohesion.
5. Showcase Different Strengths
Each person brings unique knowledge and set of skills to the organization; they are different parts of the machine that keep it in motion. You can use informal settings to highlight these skills so that each employee knows what the others bring.
One way to do this by having each member do a live stream of their role, area of expertise and highlight some of their wins in the organization. You just need to choose a streaming platform. This should be a fun, enlightening and seamless process.
6. Reverse Mentoring
Typical mentoring happens when a younger mentee is under an older mentor. Reverse mentoring is the opposite. This shifts things and allows the baby boomer to learn from the millennial and see some of what they bring to the table and maybe get an insight into their thinking patterns. The mentee can even learn newer technology tools that will help them with daily tasks. To ensure you get the best of both worlds, you can alternate between reverse mentoring and typical mentoring so that it becomes an enriching experience on both ends.
In addition, some of the conflicts between the generations are not actual traits possessed by either, but stereotypical notions. There are millennials who have never had a Facebook account, and there are baby boomers who have a fully functional Instagram account. There are millennials who thrive on a structured 9- 5 gig, and baby boomers who would prefer to work from their houses. While there are some common traits in how the different generations think and relate, there are exceptions to the rule as well. When working closely in a mentor-mentee relationship, some of these peculiarities can surface further strengthening cohesion.
7. Flatten the Hierarchy
To optimize multigenerational teams, increasing collaboration and ownership is one way to go. A workplace where information flow is seamless is attractive to millennials. Each generation should be allowed to lead, irrespective of their seniority. Again this brings a mix of expertise, builds trust and highlights individual expertise.
8. Celebrate Team Victories
When left to their own devices, most employees will group themselves with their peers. Simply put, each generation will stick to its own. This is only natural because they have shared values. However, as a leader, you can break up these cocoons by coming up with mixed work-related functions. After grouping different generations in a project, how about grouping them for an office sponsored activity outside the office to celebrate the end of a successful project?
This can be anything that will be enjoyable across the board like bowling, or lunch. This gives the team a chance to socialize outside the constraints of work and allows for more relaxed interactions. In such situations, people are likelier to form organic bonds and learn more about and from each other. These newfound bonds will be a plus in office operations as well.
The Final Word
Look at the generational gap like any other organizational issue, it is a challenge, but can be successfully navigated to ensure organizational goals are met. Focus on working around them and turning them around into useful, learning opportunities for teams rather than divisive organizational pain points.