The challenges of managing a multigenerational workplace have come more sharply into focus as Generation Z enters the workforce, Millennials emerge as team leaders, and more Baby Boomers delay retirement. Generational stereotypes and workplace ageism are real issues, but a deft manager can head off discord by emphasizing common values and goals and cultivating a culture of appreciation and support, rather than internal competition.
We’ve outlined three key concepts that can help managers lead their teams more effectively, in turn keeping workers of all ages feeling fulfilled and inspired.
Check Your Communication Style
Without over-generalizing, have an understanding of the differences between the generations in terms of communication style and how they desire/handle feedback. Many Baby Boomers, for example, prefer in-person and more formal communication as opposed to email. They may also not receive feedback with a great deal of enthusiasm.
Alternatively, many Millennials communicate primarily through text messaging, so they might be more comfortable being candid about their work experiences in an electronic forum. Millennials also favor more informal check-ins and have expressed a desire for much more frequent, real-time performance reviews than their older peers.
Foster a Culture of Support
Many companies have found success with an intergenerational mentoring program — pairing up two workers who have similarities in some areas (projects, values, etc.) but whose level of expertise in other areas can complement a soft spot in their co-worker’s skill set.
For example, do you have a Baby Boomer who needs someone to go in-depth with them regarding your project management software, or apps your company uses? How about a Millennial who could use a model for executive behavior? Peer leadership programs can be incredibly productive for finding and building common ground across age differences.
Show, Give, and Receive Appreciation
Of course, bonuses and promotions aren’t the only ways to make employees feel valued. In order to cut down on hours spent navigating office politics, work actively with your team to foster a culture of support and appreciation.
When an action is recognized positively, that action is then repeated. Think of every act of appreciation as a stepping stone down a new path of possibilities and productivity.
Further, employees who feel recognized and supported in their growth by their managers and peers will go on to build stronger professional relationships. Actively promoting this type of positive engagement is key to growing a positive, collaborative, and productive working environment.
A workplace that spans the generations is a huge asset when managers leverage the breadth of knowledge available. The keys to success lie in being flexible with communication styles, an openness to learning and mentorship, and dedication to a culture of support and appreciation. These are relatively small investments that can pay vast dividends for employers in fostering a harmonious work environment for all.