The Multigenerational Workplace—3 Reasons Why It’s Not Such a Bad Thing
Everyone knows that two heads are better than one. Four eyes better than two. So why should it be any different with generations? There’s a lot of talk—and most of it is rooted in angst—about how managers and HR will deal with so many different generations sharing the same workplace. How will we deal with the fact that older workers have a different attitude towards employment than their younger counterpart? How can a thirty-something manage someone in their forties or fifties when they have half the work experience of their direct report?
While the answers aren’t simple, I’m not quite sure they’re supposed to be. This is the age of innovation and enabling technologies. This is the time of partnership where good ole’ fashion experience helps to get new ideas, products and services to a new breed of customers—ones who expect it now, better and cheaper than ever before.
For the time being, each generation’s model (Pre-Boomers, Baby Boomers, X and Y) on how they come to a workplace, their set of values and attitudes has been different. Each generation has its own working and communication styles and as a result, managers must adjust their management styles in order to help employees be more engaged and feel more valued.
The younger generations don’t expect stability or long-term employment like the predecessors before Gen X, which also means start-ups and technology companies can go toe-to-toe with established multinational organisations in terms of talent acquisition.
Share the Knowledge
Knowledge sharing goes both ways. Older employees have experience and wisdom. Younger employees are usually closer to the latest technologies and have a better grasp of the changing consumer mindset. A team that comprises multiple generations will stand a much higher chance of success than one that doesn’t.
Create mentoring programmes with both the new and the more experienced employee in mind. Today’s mentoring programmes aren’t top-down anymore. The relationship between mentor and mentee is more circular where knowledge and skills transfer occurs between both parties.
The same reasons why you need a woman on the leadership team are the same as to why it’s a good thing to have a workforce that spans the age spectrum. Each generation has a different skillset and specific talents that are valid and useful. Use the same diversity strategy (and mindset) you’d use for the organisation.
Encourage teams where both generations can be present, when it makes sense. While the older, more experienced employee may know the best way to get the product to market, the newer, younger employee might have ideas about how to “update” that product to attract an entire new consumer.
Innovation Begets Innovation
Technology isn’t just for millennials. When you’ve got a diverse workforce where employees (of all generations) feel empowered and engaged, innovation is sure to follow. Innovation will never flourish in an environment where different ideas—even the eventually discarded ones—aren’t accepted or at least heard. Creating that culture where employees feel valued for the varied skills they bring to the table is a vital step in fostering innovation. And when employees are lacking in a certain skillset, organisations can create training on a variety of platforms using various technological capabilities to ensure that the entire workforce, regardless of their generation, receives the support they need, in a form they can learn from.
Most change is scary simply because it means a deviation from the norm. But a multigenerational workforce isn’t something to fear.